10 Oldest Works of Art in the World

Art is one of the most significant components of human civilization, despite being one of the first school programs to be eliminated and being despised by most of the public. Some of the earliest relics that reveal human history were works of art, long before any trace of language was developed.

The oldest art in the world dates back tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of years.

Ranging from abstract lines and dots to more sophisticated human and animal figures, these works of art reveal how our society has evolved over the millennia.

New discoveries are made every year, so these are the first known works of art to be discovered so far.

 10. Venus de Hohle Fels

Year Created: 35,000 to 40,000 years ago BC Location: Hohle Fels, Schelklingen, Germany Art Type: Venus Figurine (Female) Materials Used: Carved Mammoth Ivory

Venus of Hohle Fels very old art

The Venus of Hohle Fels is the most famous Venus figurine ever discovered and is the indisputably oldest representation of a human being, there are a few other “Venuses” on this list, but they are controversial. The Hohle Fels Venus was found more than a decade ago in Germany and has been dated to between 35,000 and 40,000 years BC.

The Venus of Hohle Fels is a very small figure carved from mammoth ivory. It measures less than 60 millimeters. Although the figure clearly represents a voluptuous woman (the figure has large breasts and a feminine form), she is headless. Instead, there is a ring where the head should be, and archaeologists believe this means the figure was worn as a necklace.

Did you know?

Due to the way the Venus of Hohle Fels was carved, scientists believe that the figure may have represented female fertility or be related to shamanic rituals and beliefs.

9. The Lion Man of Hohlenstein Citadel

Year Created: 38,000 to 40,000 BC Location: Hohlenstein-Stadel, Swabian Alb, Germany Art Type: Lion Man Figure Materials Used: Piece of mammoth ivory carved with a flint stone knife

The Lion Man of the very old Hohlenstein Citadel

The Hohlenstein Stadel Lion Man or Lowenmensch (“lion-human”) is one of the most fascinating pieces of prehistoric art ever discovered. As its name suggests, the Lion Man represents the head of a lion on the body of a man. The Lowenmensch was carved from a piece of mammoth ivory and is considered the oldest example of figurative art. It is also the oldest known zoomorphic (animal-shaped) sculpture in the world.

Although most of the Lion Man sculpture was discovered in 1939, more pieces were discovered in 2009. A few years later, between 2012 and 2013, the Hombre de Leon was carefully rebuilt and these new pieces were added. Currently, the Lion Man is on display at the Ulm Museum in Germany.

Did you know?

In recent years the gender of the Man of Leon has been questioned. Some scientists have claimed that the lion head on the figure is actually a “Hohlenlowin” (female European cave lion).

8. Rock art from Borneo

Year Created: 40,000 years ago BC Location: Borneo (Kalimantan), Indonesia Art Type: Wild Cattle Drawing Materials Used: Ocher on the cave walls

Rock art of Borneo very ancient work

As recently as late 2018, archaeologists discovered what is now the world’s oldest figurative art in a cave in Borneo, Indonesia. The rock art shows images of wild cattle made with red ocher and has been dated to over 40,000 years ago, possibly as late as 52,000 years ago. While much of the other artwork on this list is older, the images/engravings depicted are abstract lines and drawings and do not necessarily represent anything the way these cattle drawings do.

Like many of the more recent archaeological finds, the Borneo rock art was dated using a more recent technique, flowstone dating, rather than radiocarbon dating. According to archaeologists, the dating of the Borneo rock art shows that humans were transitioning from abstract to more figurative art around the same time, both in Asia and Europe.

Did you know?

The cattle drawings are not the only works of art found in the Borneo cave. There are more recent paintings of human figures and hand stencils dating from 13,000 and 20,000 years ago.

7. La Ferrassie – Cave Domes

Year Created: 40,000 to 60,000 B.C. C.Location:Les Eyzies, Dordogne, FranceArt Type:Cupules (cup-shaped depressions carved into the rock surface)Materials Used:Hammers used to carve cup shapes into rocks

La Ferrassie Domes of the cave work of art from years ago

The La Ferrassie cave complex is one of the oldest archaeological sites in France and is home to one of the oldest known art forms, the domes. These cup-shaped depressions aren’t quite as pretty as the rest of the rock art, but they are just as important in shedding light on the earliest cultural practices of early humans.

The domes of La Ferrassie have been estimated to be between 40,000 and 60,000 years BC. Unfortunately, as domes are not as “pretty” as murals and cave paintings, there has been little research into why they were made and the importance of these symbols for ancient humans, since domes have been found on all continents.

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Although not as old as the domes, the La Ferrassie cave boasts numerous paintings, animal figures and rock carvings, the most fascinating of which is believed to be a depiction of a vulva.

6. Diepkloof Eggshell Engravings

Year Created: 60,000 BC Location: Diepkloof Rock Shelter, Western Cape, South Africa Art Type: Eggshell Engravings Materials Used: Ostrich Eggshells

Diepkloof Eggshell Engravings Very Old Art

About a decade ago, in early 2010, scientists revealed that they had discovered ancient ostrich eggshell fragments covered in engraved symbols in the Diepkloof rock shelter in South Africa. The eggshell engravings were dated to around 60,000 BC and have been called abstract graphic designs.

The archaeologists found that the carvings had changed over time and that two main patterns had emerged. The earliest design shows a shadowed band similar to a train track, while the most recent engravings consist of parallel lines. The researchers also noted that the different colors of the eggshell fragments were mostly due to the shells accidentally falling into the fire and breaking.

Did you know?

There are indications that the Diepkloof eggshells had perforated openings, meaning that the empty eggs were probably used as containers.

5. Maltravieso Cave

Year Created: 64,000 to 66,700 years ago BC Location: Caceres, Extremadura, Spain Art Type: Hand Patterns on Cave Walls Materials Used: Red Ocher

Maltravieso cave very old art

The handprints in the Maltravieso cave in Spain have changed scientists’ ideas about the history of human art. Maltravieso’s paintings are so old – between 64,000 and 66,7000 years – that they could not have been made by Homo sapiens. Instead, the researchers believe the handprints were made by Neanderthals (although there is no direct evidence other than the time period to suggest this).

The Maltravieso hand stencils are currently the oldest known cave paintings in the world and were made with a red ocher pigment. The pigments have been dated by a more recent method, uranium-thorium dating, which is more accurate than the better-known radiocarbon dating.

Did you know?

Two other caves in Spain – La Pasiega and Ardales – also have cave paintings made with the same red ocher used in the Maltravieso Cave and have also been dated to over 60,000 years ago.

4. Blombos Cave Rock Art

Year Created: 70,000 to 75,000 years ago BC Location: Blombos Private Nature Reserve, Heidelberg, Western Cape, South Africa Art Type: Rock Engravings Materials Used: Ocher crayons on cave rock

Blombos cave rock art very old artwork

Blombos Cave in South Africa is a treasure trove of prehistoric art dating back to at least 70,000 BC. The Blombos cave art is the oldest to be discovered in Africa, predating other rock art by tens of thousands of years.

The most important discovery from the Blombos cave were two pieces or rocks decorated with cross-hatched designs that were made with ocher crayons. Archaeologists discovered hundreds of piles of ocher that had been ground up and made into these crayons. Although scientists believe that these colored pencils were made specifically for design purposes, no rock art/painting has yet been discovered at Blombos.

Did you know?

In addition to rock carvings, shell necklaces dating to between 70,000 and 75,000 BC have been found in the Blombos cave.

3. Venus by Tan-Tan

Year Created: 200,000 to 500.00 years ago BC Location: Tan-Tan, Morocco Type of Art: Figure of Venus (female) Materials used: Quartzite rock

Venus de Tan-Tan antique work of art

Like the Venus of Berekhat Ram, which dates from the same period, the status of the Venus of Tan-Tan as a work of art has been questioned. The Venus of Tan-Tan and the Venus of Berekhat Ram are often mentioned together because their existence and dating to over 200,000 BC provide evidence that these figures may have been made by early human ancestors and not just by natural phenomena. .

The Tan-Tan Venus has been extensively studied, and scientists agree that some of the markings on the rock were natural. However, these researchers believe that the natural lines of the Tan-Tan Venus were accentuated by human tools.

Did you know?

The Tan-Tan Venus is made of quartzite rock and measures 6 centimeters long (2.36 inches), about 2.6 centimeters wide (1.02 inches) and 1.2 centimeters thick (0.47 inches). ).

2. Venus by Berekhat Ram

Creation year: 230,000 to 700,000 years ago. C. Location: Berekhat Ram, Golan Heights, between Syria and Israel Art Type: Figure of Venus (female) Materials Used: Carved red tuff pebble (rock made from volcanic ash)

Venus of Berekhat Ram very old art figures

The Berekhat Ram Venus is a controversial piece of art because scientists disagree on whether the red tuff pebble (volcanic ash rock) was actually carved by a person or formed naturally. The figurine is included on this list because there are strong arguments for it to be a real work of art and the Venus of Berekhat Ram is mentioned often enough in discussions of prehistoric art to warrant inclusion.

Although the official status of the Venus of Berekhat Ram has yet to be determined, microscopic analysis has shown that the marks in the rock were made by a sharp-edged tool. However, there are people in the scientific community who believe that the marks were caused by erosion. In addition to microscopic analysis, the Venus of Berekhat Ram has been dated to between 230,000 and 700,000 years BC, which would make it one of the oldest prehistoric sculptures.

Did you know?

The Venus of Berekhat Ram was discovered in 1981 and named after the most famous Venus figurines in Europe, even though it does not resemble these figurines at all.

1. Petroglyphs of Bhimbetka

Year Created: 290,000 BC to 700,000 BC Location: Raisen District, Madhya Pradesh, India Art Type: Domes (cup-shaped depressions carved into the rock surface) Materials Used: Hammer stones used to carve cup shapes into the rocks

The petroglyphs or rock carvings at the Bhimbetka refuge in Madhya Pradesh, India, have been dated to at least 290,000 BC. It is speculated that the carvings could be thousands of years older, but further testing is needed. The rock carvings consist mainly of domes (cup-shaped depressions that have been hammered into the rock surface) and are the oldest known art in the world.

Although the Bhimbetka cave complex is made up of more than 700 caves, the most famous part of the site is the Auditorium cave. It is the largest of the Bhimbetka shelters and is surrounded by quartzite rock towers that can be seen from miles away.

Did you know?

In addition to the petroglyphs, the Bhimbetka rock shelters are home to more than 500 rock murals and other examples of Paleolithic art. These paintings are not as old as the petroglyphs and are only about 30,000 years old.