What Does the World’s Oldest Art Say About Us? (2023)

During the Old Stone Age, between thirty-seven thousand and eleven thousand years ago, some of the most remarkable art ever conceived was etched or painted on the walls of caves in southern France and northern Spain. After a visit to Lascaux, in the Dordogne, which was discovered in 1940, Picasso reportedly said to his guide, “They’ve invented everything.” What those first artists invented was a language of signs for which there will never be a Rosetta stone; perspective, a technique that was not rediscovered until the Athenian Golden Age; and a bestiary of such vitality and finesse that, by the flicker of torchlight, the animals seem to surge from the walls, and move across them like figures in a magic-lantern show (in that sense, the artists invented animation). They also thought up the grease lamp—a lump of fat, with a plant wick, placed in a hollow stone—to light their workplace; scaffolds to reach high places; the principles of stencilling and Pointillism; powdered colors, brushes, and stumping cloths; and, more to the point of Picasso’s insight, the very concept of an image. A true artist reimagines that concept with every blank canvas—but not from a void.

Some caves have rock porches that were used for shelter, but there is no evidence of domestic life in their depths. Sizable groups may have visited the chambers closest to the entrance—perhaps for communal rites—and we know from the ubiquitous handprints that were stamped or airbrushed (using the mouth to blow pigment) on the walls that people of both sexes and all ages, even babies, participated in whatever activities took place. Only a few individuals ventured or were permitted into the furthest reaches of a cave—in some cases, walking or crawling for miles. Those intrepid spelunkers explored every surface. If they bypassed certain walls that to us seem just as suitable for decoration as ones they chose, the placement of the art apparently wasn’t capricious. In the course of some twenty-five thousand years, the same animals—primarily bison, stags, aurochs, ibex, horses, and mammoths—recur in similar poses, illustrating an immortal story. For a nomadic people, living at nature’s mercy, it must have been a powerful consolation to know that such a refuge from flux existed.

As the painters were learning to crush hematite, and to sharpen embers of Scotch pine for their charcoal (red and black were their primary colors), the last Neanderthals were still living on the vast steppe that was Europe in the Ice Age, which they’d had to themselves for two hundred millennia, while Homo sapiens were making their leisurely trek out of Africa. No one can say what the encounters between that low-browed, herculean species and their slighter but formidable successors were like. (Paleolithic artists, despite their penchant for naturalism, rarely chose to depict human beings, and then did so with a crudeness that smacks of mockery, leaving us a mirror but no self-reflection.) Their genomes are discrete, so it appears that either the two populations didn’t mate or they couldn’t conceive fertile offspring. In any case, they wouldn’t have needed to contest their boundless hunting grounds. They coexisted for some eight thousand years, until the Neanderthals withdrew or were forced, in dwindling numbers, toward the arid mountains of southern Spain, making Gibraltar a final redoubt. It isn’t known from whom or from what they were retreating (if “retreat” describes their migration), though along the way the arts of the newcomers must have impressed them. Later Neanderthal campsites have yielded some rings and awls carved from ivory, and painted or grooved bones and teeth (nothing of the like predates the arrival of Homo sapiens). The pathos of their workmanship—the attempt to copy something novel and marvellous by the dimming light of their existence—nearly makes you weep. And here, perhaps, the cruel notion that we call fashion, a coded expression of rivalry and desire, was born.

The cave artists were as tall as the average Southern European of today, and well nourished on the teeming game and fish they hunted with flint weapons. They are, genetically, our direct ancestors, although “direct” is a relative term. Since recorded history began, around 3200 B.C., with the invention of writing in the Middle East, there have been some two hundred human generations (if one reckons a new one every twenty-five years). Future discoveries may alter the math, but, as it now stands, forty-five hundred generations separate the earliest Homo sapiens from the earliest cave artists, and between the artists and us another fifteen hundred generations have descended the birth canal, learned to walk upright, mastered speech and the use of tools, reached puberty, reproduced, and died.

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Early last April, I set off for the Ardèche, a mountainous region in south-central France where cave networks are a common geological phenomenon (hundreds are known, dozens with ancient artifacts). It was here, a week before Christmas in 1994, that three spelunkers exploring the limestone cliffs above the Pont d’Arc, a natural bridge of awesome beauty and scale which resembles a giant mammoth straddling the river gorge, unearthed a cave that made front-page news. It proved to contain the oldest known paintings in the world—some fifteen to eighteen thousand years older than the friezes at Lascaux and at Altamira, in the Spanish Basque country—and it was named for its chief discoverer, Jean-Marie Chauvet. Unlike the amateur adventurers or lucky bumblers (in the case of Lascaux, a posse of village urchins and their dog) who have fallen, sometimes literally, upon a cave where early Europeans left their cryptic signatures, Chauvet was a professional—a park ranger working for the Ministry of Culture, and the custodian of other prehistoric sites in the region. He and his partners, Christian Hillaire and Éliette Brunel, were aware of the irreparable damage that even a few indelicate footsteps can cause to an environment that has been sealed for eons—posterity has lost whatever precious relics and evidence that the carelessly trampled floors of Lascaux and Altamira, both now sealed to the public, might have yielded.

The cavers were natives of the Ardèche: three old friends with an interest in archeology. Brunel was the smallest, so when they felt an updraft of cool air coming from a recess near the cliff’s ledge—the potential sign of a cavity—they heaved some rocks out of the way, and she squeezed through a tight passage that led to the entrance of a deep shaft. The men followed, and, unfurling a chain ladder, the group descended thirty feet into a soaring grotto with a domed roof whose every surface was blistered or spiked with stalagmites. Where the uneven clay floor had receded, it was littered with calcite accretions—blocks and columns that had broken off—and, in photographs, the wrathful, baroque grandeur of the scene evokes some Biblical act of destruction wreaked upon a temple. As the explorers advanced, moving gingerly, in single file, Brunel suddenly let out a cry: “They have been here!”

The question of who “they” were speaks to a mystery that thinking people of every epoch and place have tried to fathom: who are we? In the century since the modern study of caves began, specialists from at least half a dozen disciplines—archeology, ethnology, ethology, genetics, anthropology, and art history—have tried (and competed) to understand the culture that produced them. The experts tend to fall into two camps: those who can’t resist advancing a theory about the art, and those who believe that there isn’t, and never will be, enough evidence to support one. Jean Clottes, the celebrated prehistorian and prolific author who assembled the Chauvet research team, in 1996, belongs to the first camp, and most of his colleagues to the second. Yet no one who studies the caves seems able to resist a yearning for communion with the artists. When you consider that their legacy may have been found by chance, but surely wasn’t left by chance, it, too, suggests a yearning for communion—with us, their descendants.

Two books published in the past few years, “The Cave Painters” (2006), by Gregory Curtis, and “The Nature of Paleolithic Art” (2005), by R. Dale Guthrie, approach the controversy generated by their subject from different perspectives. Guthrie is an encyclopedic polymath who believes he can “decode” prehistory. Curtis, a former editor of Texas Monthly, is a literary detective (his previous book, on the Venus de Milo, also concerned the obscure provenance of an archaic masterpiece), and in quietly enthralling prose, without hurry or flamboyance, he spins two narratives. (The shorter one, as he notes, covers a few million years, and the longer one, the past century.)

I packed both volumes, along with some hiking boots, protein bars, and other survival gear, all of it unnecessary, for my sojourn in the Ardèche. My destination was a Spartan summer camp—a concrete barracks in a valley near the Pont d’Arc. It is owned by the regional government, and normally houses groups of schoolchildren on subsidized holidays. But twice a year, for a couple of weeks in the spring and the autumn, the camp is a base for the Chauvet team. They, and only they, are admitted to the cave (and sometimes not even they: last October, the research session was cancelled because the climate hadn’t restabilized). Access is so strictly limited not only because traffic causes contamination but also because the French government has been embroiled for thirteen years in multimillion-dollar litigation with Jean-Marie Chauvet and his partners, as well as with the owners of the land on which they found the cave. (The finders are entitled to royalties from reproductions of the art, while the owners are entitled to compensation for a treasure that, at least technically, is their property—the Napoleonic laws, modified in the nineteen-fifties, that give the Republic authority to dispose of any minerals or metals beneath the soil do not apply to cave paintings. Had Chauvet been a gold mine, the suit couldn’t have been brought.)

By dusk on the first night, most of the researchers had assembled in the cafeteria for an excellent dinner of rabbit fricassée, served with a Côtes du Vivarais, and followed by a selection of local cheeses. (The Ardèche is a gourmet’s paradise, and the camp chef was a tough former sailor from Marseilles whose speech and cooking were equally pungent.) Among the senior team members, Evelyne Debard is a geologist, as is Norbert Aujoulat. He is a former director of research at Lascaux, and the author of a fine book on its art, who calls himself “an underground man.” Marc Azéma is a documentary filmmaker who specializes in archeology. Carole Fritz and Gilles Tosello, a husband and wife from Toulouse, are experts in parietal art, and Tosello is a graphic artist whose heroically patient, stroke-by-stroke tracings of the cave’s signs and images are essential to their study. Jean-Marc Elalouf, a geneticist, and the author of a poetic essay on Chauvet, has, with a team of graduate students, sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of the cave’s numerous bears. They pocked the floor with their hibernation burrows, and, in a space known as the Skull Chamber, a bear’s cranium sits on a flat, altar-like pedestal—perhaps enshrined there by the artists. The grotto is littered with other ursine remains, and some of the bones seem to have been planted in the sediment or stuck with intent into the fissured walls. (No human DNA has yet surfaced, and Elalouf doesn’t expect to find any.) Dominique Baffier, an official at the Ministry of Culture, is Chauvet’s curator. She coördinates the research and conservation. Jean-Michel Geneste, an archeologist, is the director of the project, a post he assumed in 2001, when Jean Clottes, at sixty-seven, took mandatory retirement.

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Clottes is a hero of Gregory Curtis’s “The Cave Painters,” one of the “giants” in a line of willful, brilliant, and often eccentric personalities who have shaped a discipline that prides itself on scientific detachment but has been a battleground for the kind of turf wars that were absent from the caves themselves. No human conflict is recorded in cave art, although at three separate sites there are four ambiguous drawings of a creature with a man’s limbs and torso, pierced with spearlike lines. More pertinent, perhaps, is a famous vignette in the shaft at Lascaux. It depicts a rather comical stick figure with an avian beak or mask, a puny physique, and a long skinny penis. He and his erect member seem to have rigor mortis. He is flat on his back at the feet of an exquisitely realistic wounded bison, whose intestines are spilling out. The bison’s glance is turned away, but it might have an ironic smile. Could the subject be hubris? Whatever it represents, some mythic contest—and the struggle of prehistorians to interpret their subject is such a contest—has ended in a draw.

Curtis profiles a dynasty of interpreters, beginning with the Spanish nobleman Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, who discovered Altamira in 1879—it was on his property. (Parts of Niaux and Mas d’Azil, two gigantic painted caves in the Pyrenees, had been known for centuries, but their decorations were regarded as graffiti made in historic times, perhaps by Roman legionaries.) He was accused of art forgery, and his scholarly papers on the paintings’ antiquity were ridiculed by two of the era’s greatest archeologists, Gabriel de Mortillet and Émile Cartailhac. Sautuola died before Cartailhac repented of his skepticism, in 1902. By then, the art at two important sites, Les Combarelles and Font-de-Gaume (which contains a ravishing portrait of two amorous reindeer), had come to light, and, in 1906, Cartailhac published a lavish compendium of cave painting that was subsidized by the Prince of Monaco. The book’s much admired illustrations of Altamira were the work of a young priest with a painterly eye, Henri Breuil, who, in the course of half a century, became known as the Pope of Prehistory. He divided the era into four periods, and dated the art by its style and appearance. Aurignacian, the oldest, was followed by Perigordian (later known as Gravettian), Solutrean, and Magdalenian. They were named for type-sites in France: Aurignac, La Gravette, Solutré, and La Madeleine. But Breuil’s theory about the art’s meaning—that it related to rituals of “hunting magic”—was discredited by subsequent studies.

During the Second World War, Max Raphael, a German art historian who had studied the caves of the Dordogne before fleeing the Nazis to New York, was looking for clues to the art’s meaning in its thematic unity. He concluded that the animals represented clan totems, and that the paintings depicted strife and alliances—an archaic saga. In 1951, the year before Raphael died, he sent an extract of his writings to Annette Laming-Emperaire, a young French archeologist who shared his conviction that “prehistory cannot be reconstructed with the aid of ethnography.” Beware, in other words, of analogue reasoning, because no one should presume to parse the icons and figures of a vanished society by comparing them with the art of hunter-gatherers from more recent eras. In 1962, she published a doctoral thesis that made her famous. “The Meaning of Paleolithic Rock Art” dismissed the various, too creative theories of its predecessors, and, with them, any residual nineteenth-century prejudice or romance about the “primitive” mind. Laming-Emperaire’s structuralist methodology is still in use, much facilitated by computer science. It involves compiling minutely detailed inventories and diagrams of the way that species are grouped on the cave walls; of their gender, frequency, and position; and of their relation to the signs and handprints that often appear close to them. In “Lascaux” (2005), Norbert Aujoulat explains how he and his colleagues added time to the equation. Analyzing the order of superimposed images, they determined that wherever horses, aurochs, and stags appear on the same panel, the horse is beneath, the aurochs in the middle, and the stag on top, and that the variations in their coats correspond to their respective mating seasons. The triad of “horse-aurochs-stag” links the fertility cycles of important, and perhaps sacred or symbolic, animals to the cosmic cycles, suggesting a great metaphor about creation.

Laming-Emperaire had an eminent thesis adviser, André Leroi-Gourhan, who revolutionized the practice of excavation by recognizing that a vertical dig destroys the context of a site. In twenty years (1964-84) of insanely painstaking labor—scraping the soil in small horizontal squares at Pincevent, a twelve-thousand-year-old campsite on the Seine—he and his disciples gave us one of the richest pictures to date of Paleolithic life as the Old Stone Age was ending.

A new age in the science of prehistory had begun in 1949, when radiocarbon dating was invented by Willard Libby, a chemist from Chicago. One of Libby’s first experiments was on a piece of charcoal from Lascaux. Breuil had, incorrectly, it turns out, classified the cave as Perigordian. (It is Magdalenian.) He had also made the Darwinian assumption that the most ancient art was the most primitive, and Leroi-Gourhan worked on the same premise. In that respect, Chauvet was a bombshell. It is Aurignacian, and its earliest paintings are at least thirty-two thousand years old, yet they are just as sophisticated as much later compositions. What emerged with that revelation was an image of Paleolithic artists transmitting their techniques from generation to generation for twenty-five millennia with almost no innovation or revolt. A profound conservatism in art, Curtis notes, is one of the hallmarks of a “classical civilization.” For the conventions of cave painting to have endured four times as long as recorded history, the culture it served, he concludes, must have been “deeply satisfying”—and stable to a degree it is hard for modern humans to imagine.

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Jean Clottes is a tall, cordial man of seventy-four, who still attends the biannual sessions at Chauvet, conducting his own research (this April, he and Marc Azéma found a new panel of signs), while continuing to travel and lecture widely. The latest addition to his bibliography, “Cave Art,” a luxuriously illustrated “imaginary museum” of the Old Stone Age, is due out from Phaidon this summer.

Clottes’s eminence in his field was never preordained. He once taught high-school English in Foix, a city in the Pyrenees, near the Andorran border, which is an epicenter for decorated caves. He studied archeology in his spare time, and earned a doctorate at forty-one, when he quit teaching. He had been moonlighting in a job that gave him privileged access to new caves, and an impressive calling card—as the director of prehistory for the Midi-Pyrenees—but a nominal salary. The appointment was made official in 1971, and for the next two decades Clottes was usually the first responder at the scene of a new discovery. The most sensational find, before Chauvet, was Cosquer—a painted cave near Marseilles that could be reached only through a treacherous underwater tunnel, in which three divers had drowned. Like Altamira, Cosquer was, at first, attacked as a hoax, and some of the press coverage impeached Clottes’s integrity as its authenticator. He could judge its art only from photographs, but, in 1992, a year after Cosquer was revealed, carbon dating proved that the earliest paintings are at least twenty-seven thousand years old. That year, the Ministry of Culture elevated him to the rank of inspector general.

At the base camp, Clottes bunked down, as did everyone, in a dorm room, and braved the morning hoarfrost for a dash to the communal showers. There is a boyish quality to his energy and conviction. (At sixty-nine, he learned to scuba dive so that he could finally explore Cosquer himself.) One evening, he showed us a film about his “baptism,” in 2007, as an honorary Tuareg; the North African nomads crowned him with a turban steeped in indigo that stained his forehead, and he danced to their drums by a Saharan campfire. Among his own sometimes fractious tribesmen, Clottes also commands the respect due an unusually vigorous elder, and it was hard to keep pace with him as he scampered on his long legs up the steep cliff to Chauvet, talking with verve the entire way.

The path skirts a vineyard, then veers up into the woods, emerging onto a corniche—a natural terrace with a rocky overhang on one side, and a precipitous drop on the other. “En route to Chauvet, the painters might have sheltered here or prepared their pigments. Looking at the valley and the river gorge, they saw what we do,” Clottes said, indicating a magnificent view. “The topography hasn’t changed much, except that the Ice Age vegetation was much sparser: mostly evergreens, like fir and pine. Without all the greenery, the resemblance of the Pont d’Arc to a giant mammoth would have been even more dramatic. But nothing of the landscape—clouds, earth, sun, moon, rivers, or plant life, and, only rarely, a horizon—figures in cave art. It’s one among many striking omissions.”

Where the terrace ended, we plunged back into the underbrush, following a track obstructed by rocks and brambles, and, after about half an hour of climbing, we arrived at the entrance that Jean-Marie Chauvet and his partners discovered. (The prehistoric entrance has been plugged, for millennia, by a landslide.) A shallow cave at the trailhead has been fitted out as a storeroom for gear and supplies. From here, a wooden ramp guides one along a narrow ledge, shaped like a horseshoe, that was formed when the cliffs receded, to a massive metal door that’s as well defended—with voice alarms, video surveillance, and a double key system—as a bank vault. Some members of the team relaxed with a cigarette or a cold drink and a little academic gossip, but Clottes immediately changed into his spelunking overalls, donned a hard hat with a miner’s lamp, and disappeared into the underworld.

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On a map, Chauvet resembles the British Isles, and, like an island with coves and promontories, its outline is irregular. The distance from the entrance to the deepest gallery is about eight hundred feet, and, at the northern end, the cave forks into two horn-shaped branches. In some places, like the grotto that Éliette Brunel first plumbed in 1994 (it is named for her), the terrain is rocky and chaotic, while in others, like the Chamber of the Bear Hollows, the walls and floor are relatively smooth. (In the nineteen-nineties, a metal catwalk was installed to protect the cave bed.) The ceilings of the principal galleries vary in height from about five to forty feet, but there are passages and alcoves where an adult has to kneel or crawl. Twenty-six thousand years ago (six millennia after the first paintings were created), a lone adolescent left his footprints and torch swipes in the furthest reaches of the western horn, the Gallery of the Crosshatching.

FAQs

What does the world's oldest art say about us? ›

What does the oldest known art in the world tell us about the people who created it? Images painted, drawn or carved onto rocks and cave walls—which have been found across the globe—reflect one of humans' earliest forms of communication, with possible connections to language development.

What is the oldest art in the world? ›

'” At least 45,500 years ago, a human hand had painted the pigs in ochre, making them the oldest known examples of figurative art by at least several thousand years—and, by some standards, the oldest artwork in the world (1).

What are the oldest pieces of art that are known to us? ›

1. Bhimbetka and Daraki-Chattan Cupules (290–700,000 BC) The Bhimbetka and Daraki-Chattan cupoles are the oldest pieces of prehistoric art ever discovered and have been dated to around 700,000 BC, almost four times older than the Blombos Cave art.

What is the message of cave of Lascaux? ›

Arguably the most convincing explanation for the cave paintings at Lascaux is that they were created as part of some spiritual ritual. According to analysis by the paleolithic scholar Leroi-Gourhan, Lascaux was a religious sanctuary used for initiation ceremonies.

What does art tell us about history? ›

Art from the past holds clues to life in the past. By looking at a work of art's symbolism, colors, and materials, we can learn about the culture that produced it.

What can cave paintings teach us about life back then? ›

Cave paintings illustrate the human need to communicate. This communication takes its form in leaving a mark for the future- to help guide, or communicate something so important that it needs a permanent representation. That is why the Altamira Cave in Spain is of major importance.

Is drawing the oldest form of art? ›

Sometime in the Stone Age, human artists began experimenting with a new form of visual art: drawing. Now, from the ancient rubble that accumulated on the floor of a South African cave comes the earliest-known example — an abstract, crayon-on-stone piece created about 73,000 years ago.

How old is the world's oldest painting? ›

The world's oldest known painting was found by archeologists in Indonesia recently. The painting is believed to be made at least 45,500 years ago. The world's oldest known cave painting has been discovered by archaeologists in Indonesia. It is a life-sized picture of a wild pig that was made at least 45,500 years ago.

What is the oldest piece of human history? ›

The hieroglyphs date to between 3400 – 3200 BCE and are the oldest recorded history discovered so far in the world. What is this? The hieroglyphs were found in Tomb U-j, which is believed to hold the remains of Scorpion I, one of the first rulers of Ancient Egypt.

What are the two oldest art forms? ›

The World's Oldest Art - Top 10
  • The World's Oldest Art - Top 10.
  • Bhimbetka and Daraki-Chattan Petroglyphs (290,000-700,000 BCE) ...
  • Venus of Berekhat Ram (230,000-700,000 BCE) ...
  • Venus of Tan-Tan (200,000-500,000 BCE) ...
  • Blombos Cave Rock Art (c.70,000 BCE) ...
  • Diepkloof Eggshell Engravings (c.60,000 BCE)

When did humans first make art? ›

By 40,000 years ago, humans were creating musical instruments and two- and three-dimensional images of the world around them. By 17,000 years ago, they had developed all the major representational techniques including painting, drawing, engraving, sculpture, ceramics, and stenciling.

Who made the first art? ›

The first painting was made by primitive men, believed to have been made by Homo Neanderthalis in the prehistoric era. Archaeological excavations carried out in Europe, Africa and Asia reveal that primitive men were the first painters and sculptors and demonstrated through these arts their daily lives.

What do cave paintings tell us about? ›

Cave art is generally considered to have a symbolic or religious function, sometimes both. The exact meanings of the images remain unknown, but some experts think they may have been created within the framework of shamanic beliefs and practices.

What can we learn from the Lascaux cave paintings? ›

The Lascaux cave paintings in southeast France capture the style and subject matter of many of our ancestors' early artistic work. Archeologists interpret these and other discoveries of Ice Age rock art as evidence of the emergence of a new, distinctly human consciousness.

What meaning can you derive from the image cave of Lascaux? ›

Interpretations of Images

One interpretation is that the caves mostly served a ceremonial purpose, because the paintings aren't near the main entrance, Glendale's analysis suggests. The artists may also have painted the images to celebrate successful hunts or ensure a good outcome on future ones.

How does art help us understand our world? ›

Art gives us meaning and helps us understand our world. Scientific studies have proven that art appreciation improves our quality of life and makes us feel good. When we create art, we elevate our mood, we improve our ability to problem solve, and open our minds to new ideas. According to Dr.

Why is art so special to us humans? ›

Art can communicate information, shape our everyday lives, make a social statement and be enjoyed for aesthetic beauty.

What can art teach us about culture? ›

In every culture in the world, artistic expression has emerged to provide an outlet for thoughts, feelings, traditions, and beliefs. Art can be both rooted in history and a catalyst for change in a culture. Many famous works of art are rooted in religion.

What does prehistoric art tell us about early humans? ›

Prehistoric art reveals the everyday lives of early humans. For example, many of the images painted on the cave walls were of different animals, such as horses, bison, hyenas, wolves, and deer. This shows that these early people valued these creatures.

Why cave art is so important? ›

The Influence of Cave Art

Cave art connects contemporary artists with a primal perspective, clearing the clutter of modern life. Inspired by the art of their ancestors, such artists bring elements from pre-historic art to their contemporary works.

What do rock paintings tell us? ›

Rock art is the only means left to tell us how our ancestors thought and how they saw and portrayed their world. Because most rock art belonged to cultures that disappeared long ago, it is now difficult however to understand why the artists painted and engraved, or what their art meant to them.

What is the meaning of ancient art? ›

Ancient art refers to the many types of art produced by the advanced cultures of ancient societies with some form of writing, such as those of ancient China, India, Mesopotamia, Persia, Palestine, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

What art form that is considered as one of the oldest? ›

The first and oldest form of prehistoric art are petroglyphs (cupules), which appeared throughout the world during the Lower Paleolithic.

Which artwork relates to this quote we watched disbelieving and helpless? ›

Tumbling Woman"We watched, disbelieving and helpless, on that savage day. People we lovebegan falling,helpless and in disbelief." -- Poem by Eric Fischl Shortly after 9/11, artist Eric Fischl created the sculpture Tumbling Woman.

What is the world's oldest anthropomorphic sculpture select your answer? ›

Maros-Pangkep, Sulawesi, Indonesia. This ivory carving of a human figure with alion's head, unearthed in a cave inside Hohlenstein Mountain of the Swabian Jura, is the oldest known anthropomorphic carving in the world, and the oldest piece of sculpture of the Upper Paleolithic.

What is the purpose of ancient art? ›

The art of the ancient world reveals a tremendous amount to modern historians about the culture, values and beliefs of these early civilizations. At a time when few people could read and write, art was an important means of communication, and a critical way to record important events.

Why the arts are so important? ›

Art can communicate information, shape our everyday lives, make a social statement and be enjoyed for aesthetic beauty.

What's the purpose of art? ›

Art can uplift, provoke, soothe, entertain and educate us and is an important part of our lives. At its most profound level, it takes us from the everyday to a place of introspection and contemplation, to see the bigger picture of the human condition.

When was the first art made by humans? ›

The earliest known examples of art created on a flat surface date from 30 000 BP or later, from the Later Stone Age of Namibia, the Late Palaeolithic of Egypt and the Upper Palaeolithic of Europe.

Why is the history of art important? ›

Art history provides a means by which we can understand our human past and its relationship to our present, because the act of making art is one of humanity's most ubiquitous activities. As an art historian you will learn about this rich and fundamental strand of human culture.

When was art first created? ›

The first human artistic representations, markings with ground red ocher, seem to have occurred about 100,000 B.C. in African rock art. This chronology may be more an artifact of the limitations of archaeological evidence than a true picture of when humans first created art.

Which of these concepts helps us understand Willem de Kooning's painting Woman I quizlet? ›

Which of these concepts helps us understand Willem de Kooning's painting Woman I? > Abstraction can be used to communicate ideas beyond physical appearance.

How is this sculpture associated with the cycle of life quizlet? ›

How does this artwork relate to the cycle of life? This sculpture depicts the dance that balances creation and destruction. The point of this artwork is to emphasize the end of life as a physical event rather than a spiritual process and to suggest that all of life is ultimately hopeless.

In which if any of these depictions of female royalty is the woman represented as an important individual in her own right? ›

In which, if any, of these depictions of female royalty is the woman represented as an important individual in her own right? All of them. Like most other revolutionary leaders, the Chinese Communist Mao Zedong turned his back on the centuries-old practice of employing personal portraits as political propaganda.

What is the oldest representational art found and evidence of the earliest form of art and the best known example of pre historic painting and drawing? ›

The oldest representational art

The oldest of these is a 2.4-inch tall female figure carved out of mammoth ivory that was found in six fragments in the Hohle Fels cave near Schelklingen in southern Germany. It dates to 35,000 B.C.E.

What is the oldest sculpture in the world? ›

The Löwenmensch figurine and the Venus of Hohle Fels, both from Germany, are the oldest confirmed statuettes in the world, dating to 35,000-40,000 years ago. The oldest known life-sized statue is Urfa Man found in Turkey which is dated to around 9,000 BC.

Which art work is the oldest drawings made by man? ›

'Hashtag' pattern drawn on rock in South African cave is 73,000 years old.

Videos

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