Humans have been practicing various art forms since the very first time they were able to hold a chisel or dip their hands into some kind of paint. The methods they used were various and the themes of their art ranged from daily occurrences like hunting to more complex ones that depicted their beliefs and relationship with the world around them. From stone engravings and ivory carvings to clay figurines and wall paintings, here are 10 oldest pieces of human art ever discovered.
Oldest prehistoric rock art: Bhimbetka Cave Cupules
Cupules (or cup-marks) are depressions cut into rock horizontally and vertically. This is probably the most ancient art form practiced by humans and it is still used by some aboriginal cultures of Australia. The oldest rock art of such kind was found at the Bhimbetka Caves of central India. Along with similar cupules from the newly discovered Daraki-Chattan cave, they are believed to be 290,000 years old! Yet the carbon analysis hasn’t been done yet, so they may actually be much older than that (some suggest they originated around 700,000 BCE).
Oldest sculpture: Venus of Berekhat Ram
While the Venus of Hohle Fels, a figurine made of mammoth ivory found in a Hohle Fels cave in Germany, is vastly considered the oldest such figurine in the world – it was created 40,000 years ago. Yet recently there’s been a new discovery in the Golah Heights in Israel. The newly discovered sculpture was called Venus of Berekhat Ram and it is believed to be more ancient that the one from Hohle Fels. It barely resembles a female form, yet archaeologists believe it was altered by human hand at least to some degree. The age of the figurine is somewhere between 233,000 and 800,000, which is mind-boggling to say the least.
Oldest eggshell engravings: Diepkloof Rock Shelter in South Africa
Diepkloof Rock Shelter in South Africa is home to 270 ostrich egg fragments decorated with pigments and engravings. Eggshells are among the first materials used by prehistoric people to preserve their art. Their age is somewhere around 60,000 BCE!
Earliest European cave drawings: caves of Nerja in Malaga
Until recently it was believed that no cave drawings were produced by Neanderthals as they were deemed incapable of such thing. It all changed when the researchers working in the caves of Nerja in Malaga, Spain, found paintings that predated the famous Chauvet cave art found in France. These newly found drawings depicted seals, a source of food for local Neanderthals at that time, and were dated to be 42,300–43,500 years old.