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Sculpture regressed to being little more than a simple technique for the ornamentation of sarcophagi, altars, and ecclesiastical furniture.On the other hand, the rise of gold work and manuscript illumination brought about a resurgence of Celtic decoration, which, with Christian and other contributions, constitutes the basis of Merovingian art.

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The Celts of Gaul are known through numerous tombs and burial mounds found throughout France.

Celtic art is very ornamental, avoiding straight lines and only occasionally using symmetry, without the imitation of nature nor ideal of beauty central to the classical tradition, but apparently, often involves complex symbolism.

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.

Monumental works from this period include the amphitheater in Orange, Vaucluse, the "Maison Carrée" at Nîmes which is one of the best preserved Roman temples in Europe, the city of Vienne near Lyon, which features an exceptionally well preserved temple (the temple of Augustus and Livia), a circus as well as other remains, the Pont du Gard aqueduct which is also in an exceptional state of preservation, the Roman cities of Glanum and Vaison-la-Romaine, two intact Gallo-Roman arenas in Nîmes and Arles, and the Roman baths, and the arena of Paris.

Merovingian art is the art and architecture of the Merovingian dynasty of the Franks, which lasted from the fifth century to the eighth century in present-day France and Germany.Unfortunately, these timber structures have not survived because of destruction by fire, whether accidental or caused by the Normans at the time of their incursions.Carolingian art is the approximate 120-year period from 750 to 900—during the reign of Charles Martel, Pippin the Younger, Charlemagne, and his immediate heirs—popularly known as the Carolingian Renaissance.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 the Neolithic period (see Neolithic Europe), megalithic (large stone) monuments, such as the dolmens and menhirs at Carnac, Saint-Sulpice-de-Faleyrens and elsewhere in France begin to appear; this appearance is thought to start in the fifth millennium BC, although some authors speculate about Mesolithic roots.

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