Stippled decoration of rock in Mnjadra temple, Malta

Before there were elaborate designs, early artists began stippling the stones they had to work with.   There are any number of theories, but we don’t know why, faced with natural beauty, incipient artists were more satisfied when they could make it their own by covering it with dots.

My personal feeling is that any sort of manmade graffiti is an artist making an image that personalizes what otherwise is the unfeeling outer world.

The most ancient structures we know are the temples on Malta, that were built 5,000 and more years ago.   There, early design created walls with huge rough rocks, that the builders made their own with elaborate, omnipresent, stippling.

Most appealing is still that these people had no tools of bronze or iron: all the carving were made with stonetools.

When I visited Zadar, Croatia, where excavations in the ancient walled city are uncovering elaborate early temples, once again I found stonework full of stippling.   There the very stones of the street showed artists with crude materials and tools who elaborately decorated their world with stippling.

Streets of Zadar, stones stippled by ancient artists

Of course, stippling became in modern art pointillism, the use of innumerable dots to build pictures, famously by Seurat, later including Pisarro and Van Gogh.   Amusingly, they were going back to methods that had been the earliest form of decoration. (La plus ca change.)

Seurat painting at Art Institute of Chicago, images built by stippling

(Post courtesy of ugardener at


Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.