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From the very earliest tool-cultures of the Paleolithic era, sculptural progress has been marked by the discovery of new materials and equipment.

Amazingly, by the birth of Christ, most of the sculptor's traditional methods and techniques had already been discovered, including bronzework and the refined goldsmithery practised by nomadic tribes.

For other similar forms of carving, see: Stone Sculpture. If these objects are pre-sculptural forms, the earliest prehistoric sculpture proper emerged around 35,000 BCE in the form of carvings of animals, birds, and therianthropic figures, made during the Lower Perigordian/Aurignacian Period and discovered in the caves of Vogelherd, Hohle Fels, and Hohlenstein-Stadel, in the Swabian Jura, Germany.

The earliest figurative sculpture is the ivory carving known as the Lion Man of the Hohlenstein Stadel (38,000 BCE).

Hellenistic Greek Sculpture (c.323-27 BCE) During this period (characterized by the spread of Greek culture throughout the civilized world), classical realism was replaced by greater heroicism and expressionism.