African art, by nature, is extremely complex and diverse. The term "primitive" does not fit African art. The Africans use many materials and forms of expression in their art. Materials include grasses, wood, stones, ivory, terra cotta, copper, brass, bronze, gold and copper, making everything from baskets to cloth to jewelry. Paintings and engravings done on rocks give clues to the beliefs of various ancient civilizations in Africa. Archaeologists have uncovered ruins of lost civilizations, such as that of Nok (second half of the lst millennium B.C.), and Ife (before the lst decades of the 13th century). The religious and political power of various African tribes is also evident in their art. They used chairs, thrones, effigies, drums and elegantly woven cloths for religious or political ceremonies. Various African societies designed masks for initiation ceremonies.
In 1875, the European Dr. Scheinfurt wrote "Artes Africannae". He based his treatise on his finds of sculpted statues and other pieces. Leo Frobenius continued Dr. Scheinfurt's work later on. The public at large, however, first became acquainted with the African arts through such writers as Apollinaire and Cendrars. As time has gone on, it has become clear that the African arts went through many changes, as had the art of other countries. There has been much to be learned from the African arts, a task that had been harder than other civilizations' arts, due to the lack of written material. African art is significant in showing the early civilizations' lifestyle, from many years before Christ to the seventeenth century.