Art created before the existence of written records, the period varying enormously between different cultures. Writing came into existence in various parts of the world between the 4th and 1st millennia bc. Much of our knowledge of prehistoric art and culture, therefore, has been derived from archaeological investigations. In Europe the ending of the prehistoric period is often associated with writings about European Iron Age societies by classical authors. The term ‘prehistoric’ was first coined by a Frenchman, Gustave d'Eichthal, in 1843. In recent times the term has been criticized in some quarters as patronizing and implying a western sense of superiority over ‘backward’ cultures.