The hieratic tradition of ancient Oriental art, which proved increasingly attractive as interest shifted from sensuous beauty to spiritual expression, was not the only trend to challenge the classical heritage in the last centuries of antiquity. Beyond the borders of the empire a third style had long flourished; it was based on a distortion of the civilized art forms, and all but overwhelmed them for several centuries after the breakdown of Roman power in the West. But this border-style, which was to dominate the history of west European art in the Dark Ages, had other, older antecedents; for, at various times from c. 3000 b.c. onwards, similar developments may be traced on the fringes of the civilized area in which the urban art forms, and more especially the life-like ‘heraldic’, or classical animal images were more or less violently distorted.