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This art includes cave paintings, such as the famous paintings at Pech Merle in the Lot in Languedoc which date back to 16,000 BC, Lascaux, located near the village of Montignac, in the Dordogne, dating back to between 13,000 and 15,000 BC, or perhaps, as far back as 25,000 BC, the Cosquer Cave, the Chauvet Cave dating back to 29,000 BC, and the Trois-Frères cave; and portable art, such as animal carvings and great goddess statuettes called Venus figurines, such as the "Venus of Brassempouy" of 21,000 BC, discovered in the Landes, now in the museum at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye or the Venus of Lespugue at the Musée de l'Homme.Ornamental beads, bone pins, carvings, as well as flint and stone arrowheads also are among the prehistoric objects from the area of France.Speculations exist that only Homo sapiens are capable of artistic expression, however, a recent find, the Mask of La Roche-Cotard—a Mousterian or Neanderthal artifact, found in 2002 in a cave near the banks of the Loire River, dating back to about 33,000 B.C.—now suggests that Neanderthal humans may have developed a sophisticated and complex artistic tradition.
In later centuries, the Netherlands continued to have one of the most advanced economies in the world, despite the country’s modest size.
The Gallo-Roman period left a distinctive provincial style of sculpture, and the region around the modern Franco-German border led the empire in the mass production of finely decorated Ancient Roman pottery, which was exported to Italy and elsewhere on a large scale.
With Merovingian art the story of French styles as a distinct and influential element in the wider development of the art of Christian Europe begins.
In the north, east and centre, many groups are nomadic or semi-nomadic, grazing livestock across large areas – see Pastoralism.
These groups include the Fulani, Tubu (or Toubou), Maba/Ouaddai and Zaghawa peoples. It was spread by Arab traders and merchants from as early as the 11th century – see History & Politics.