Sculpture – The ancient 3D art

sculpture - sculpture featured - Sculpture – The ancient 3D art

Sculpture – The ancient 3D art


It might be impossible to find someone who hasn’t stumbled upon a 3 Dimensional art that is created with modern 3D software such as Blender, Autodesk 3ds Max, Maya, ZBrush, etc. However, have you ever thought about the origin of impeccable 3D art that you see in video games, movies, animations, etc.?

You guessed right!

It’s all started from the ancient 3D art known as sculpture. So, shall we take a deep look at the importance and the history of sculptures? Let’s dive in!


What is Sculpture?


Sculpture is the starting point of every 3-dimensional art that we see in the world. The importance of  it is tangible and as a result, even a blind person can perceive one.


It has been around for thousands of years because undoubtedly every single culture at some point in their existence has sculpted objects.


The original sculpting approach was carving. In other words, the carving materials such as stone, or clay were used as a whole and then removed the material to bring out the sculpture. Sculptures that were created with stone are the most preserved ones so far which are the telltales of ancient cultures.


Looking back at the history


The importance of it has been centralized around religious devotion and politics among many cultures. Sculptures from the ancient Mediterranean, Central and South America, India, China, and Africa, etc. had managed to survive for many years to give a clear picture of it’s history.


As mentioned above, the history of Sculptures brings us back to the Aurignacian culture. It was located in Europe and southwest Asia which was active at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, A.K.A. the Late Stone Age. The people in this culture created the earliest known cave art among stone tools, pendants, ivory beads, bone-flutes, and 3 Dimensional figurines.


Löwenmensch, an anthropomorphic lion-man figure that was made with woolly mammoth ivory, was found in the Hohlenstein Stadel area of Germany. It is 30 cm tall and dates back to 35–40,000 BP. This is one of the oldest examples of figurative art.

Löwenmensch sculpture - 320px Loewenmensch2 169x300 - Sculpture – The ancient 3D art

Ancient Egypt is a vital role in the history of sculptures. Needless to say, Egypt was famous for monumental sculpture.

Wood carved statues of administrators and their wives were found well preserved in tombs due to the climate of Egypt. The reason is, wood can survive thousands of years in such a climate.

Figurine of Isis; Ptolemaic dynasty; painted wood and stucco sculpture - Mourning Isis Hildesheim 139x300 - Sculpture – The ancient 3D art

In the early tombs, small models of slaves, animals, buildings, boats, etc. were placed to support the deceased to continue their lifestyle in the afterlife.

India on the other hand, provides some of the earliest examples of sculptures.

With the development of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism, the history of sculptures was cherished with detailed bronzes produced in India. Shrines such as Ellora is one of the most intricate, largest yet unparalleled sculptures from the entire world. Not to mention, it was completely carved out of a solid rock.

During 2nd – 1st-century B.C.E. many sculptures of Buddha were found in far northern India which is now called southern Afghanistan, and northern Pakistan. These sculptures depict episodes of Buddha’s life and teachings. The Buddha statue found in Gandhara in the 1st–2nd century CE is considered to be one of the first representations of the Buddha.

Mathura school Buddha sculpture - Inscribed Seated Buddha Image in Abhaya Mudra   Kushan Period   Katra Keshav Dev   ACCN A 1   Government Museum   Mathura 2013 02 24 5972 199x300 - Sculpture – The ancient 3D art

Another spectacular example is the Terracotta army that was excavated around the period of the Han Dynasty in 206 B.C.E. – 220 C.E. These sculptures were created for the tomb of the first emperor of the Chin dynasty. Even after 2000 years, the figures were still vigorous, direct, and appealing.

Terracotta Army sculpture - Terracotta Army - Sculpture – The ancient 3D art

The history of sculpture doesn’t end here, it goes on for a long period but the above-mentioned instances can give you a glimpse of it’s importance.

Types of Sculpture


Since prehistoric times, hard limestone (marble), wood, clay, metal, ivory, and plaster were popular materials in sculpting because of their plastic attributes.


  1. Stone – The earliest form of monumental sculpture and the best medium . It is common to many eras of the Paleolithic Stone Age.

stone sculpture sculpture - stone sculpture 300x251 - Sculpture – The ancient 3D art

  1. Jade – Popular among Chinese master craftsmen since the Neolithic times. These types  are the best-known form of hardstone sculpture.

jade sculpture sculpture - jade sculpture 300x251 - Sculpture – The ancient 3D art

  1. Wood – It is one of the most prolonged, and oldest types of sculpture that has been around during the Prehistoric age and Early Christian sculpture era. Best for small intricate work.

wood sculpture sculpture - wood sculpture 300x251 - Sculpture – The ancient 3D art

  1. Clay – This is one of the most versatile, light, inexpensive, and durable types of sculpture methods that has been existing since the paleolithic era of the Stone Age.

clay sculpture sculpture - clay sculpture 300x251 - Sculpture – The ancient 3D art

  1. Bronze – This sculpting process was developed in China, South America, and Egypt independently. A fine example of a Bronze Sculpture is The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro (c.2,500 BCE).

bronze sculpture sculpture - bronze sculpture 300x251 - Sculpture – The ancient 3D art

  1. Other types are –  Ivory, whalebone, and precious metals .


Modern Sculpture art

There are many Modernist movements including Cubism, Geometric abstraction, De Stijl, Dadaism, Surrealism, Futurism, Suprematism, Constructivism, Pop-Art, Minimalism, Land art, Formalism Abstract expressionism, etc.


In the 20th century, Pablo Picasso turned around modern sculpture art by using disparate objects and materials. Then he combined those into one piece.


Some Modern Sculpture art is often used outdoors now.  such as Light sculpture, street art sculpture, and site-specific art is popular with their use of the environment.


Ice sculpture is another type of Modern Sculpture art that is famous in Sweden, Russia, Japan, Canada, and China. These are usually used to decorate Asian cuisines and special occasions such as weddings.

sculpture - ice sculpture 1605748260 1024x576 - Sculpture – The ancient 3D art

Aenigmatis-3D / Pixabay

Apart from these, some of the noteworthy modern sculpture art include Kinetic that are designed to move, Snow , Sound , etc.

Other forms of modern art such as 3D printing are quite popular all across the globe. These 3D statues are created with a 3D printer in order to build objects such as action figures.



The importance of sculpture is obvious because it’s history paints a vast picture of our ancestors’ beliefs, passion for art, religions, politics, traditions, etc. it is perpetual and relatable. It will never perish but will take many forms and reemerge like it did in previous eras.




  1. https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Sculpture
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sculpture
  3. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/sculpture.htm
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_Paleolithic

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