Albert Einstein wrote that “Imagination is the highest form of research”. As an imitation of life, the definition of art is ever-changing. The central idea of art focuses on the human imagination and technical skill.
Early civilization art provides insight into their culture, belief system, and hierarchical structures. Pauline Kael stated, “I see little of more importance to the future of our country and of civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist…”
Continue reading to learn about the nine most ancient known works of art.
Archaeologists continue to make new discoveries that provide information about ancient societies. These findings help to document advances in the human race and give us a look at their lives.
In 2018, scientists found drawings in the Blombos Cave in South Africa’s southern Cape region. They found cross-hatched patterns on a silcrete flake. One of the lines overlaps the edge of the flake suggesting that this is only part of the original piece.
The design contains six straight, parallel lines with three crossing lines. An ochre crayon created this pattern. Experts believe that these are the oldest drawings made by Homo sapiens ever found.
A petroglyph describes an image created on a rock surface. The creation of this picture involved scouring, scratching, engraving, chiseling, or carving. This doesn’t describe paintings on rocks.
The oldest known petroglyphs were first discovered in the 1990s in two caves in India. These caves were The Auditorium Cave at Bhimbetka and the Daraki-Chattan rock shelter.
The petroglyphs contain cup-shaped depressions called cupules. This style pre-dates the Acheulean culture of the Lower Paleolithic era. Experts date these findings to be from about 290,000 to 700,000 BCE.
A collection of 270 engraved ostrich eggshells were found at Diepkloof Rock Shelter in South Africa. Researchers believe that these geometric designs served as a symbolic system of communication.
African hunter-gatherers created these eggshells 55,000 to 65,000 years ago. Archaeologists describe two standard design patterns found on the eggshells.
The Howiesons Poort culture had already been identified before this find. These people engraved designs in pigmented pieces. This demonstrated a crucial advance in the evolution of human behavior.
During the 2008 excavation of the Hohle Fels Cave, archaeologists found a female figurine. This German cave is in the Swabian Jura. This figurine is one of the oldest human figurative art pieces known in the world.
This figure named the Venus from Hohle Fels, is almost complete with only a missing left arm and shoulder. It’s reported to be from 35,000 to 40,000 years old. The Venus was carved out of mammoth ivory from the basal Aurignacian deposit.
In 1939, archaeologists found The Lion Man in a German Swabian Alpsa cave. This 40,000-year-old figurine, carved from mammoth ivory, is 31 centimeters tall. It features the head, hips, and thighs of a cave lion with a partial human body.
He is standing upright with his legs apart and arms down at his sides. The Lion Man appears attentive and powerful. This is the oldest known physical form representing supernatural ideas.
Some believe that this animal/human hybrid gave people an understanding of their place in nature.
An archaeologist working in the cave of El Castillo found several paintings on the stone walls. They included abstract signs, dots, and a disk of red ochre hand stencils. These hand impressions called the “Gallery of Hands”, dated from 39,000 BC.
Some experts believe that Neanderthals created these Spanish cave paintings. They’re thought to be the first earth inhabitants to paint in caves. Yet, some experts give credit to Homo sapiens instead of Neanderthals.
In 1954, archaeologists discovered paintings in 100 limestone caves on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. These findings date to about 37,900 BC.
The sepia pictures show stencil-like outlines of human hands. They also feature stick-legged animals shown in motion. These findings are reminiscent of the cave paintings found in Spain and France but are much older.
In 2009, construction began for a new hotel in Antakya, Turkey. In the early stage of development, builders unearthed a 9,000 square-foot mosaic.
Archaeologists concluded that the geometric mosaic work was the floor of a public building in Antioch. This was one of the key cities during the Seleucid Empire. It’s believed that 13 different ancient civilizations contributed to this mosaic.
The building is near the St. Pierre Church. In ancient times, this church was an important destination for Christian pilgrimages.
Most of the mosaic is still intact. Some areas are rippled or missing as the result of earthquakes in 526 and 528 A.D.
The ancient Roman Empire built a great civilization. It also gave birth to renowned artists and technological accomplishments. Rome’s empire encompassed all the areas around the Mediterranean Sea.
Over 2,000 years ago, the Romans began making glass in the area of Jerusalem. This terrain was primarily sand which created the perfect location for glassmaking.
Roman glass makers revolutionized the art of glass blowing. This impacted the lives of common citizens. Now they had access to glass items such as plates, bowls, and jars.
This Roman glass has been used for grand art pieces as well as items for daily use. Some say that art imitates life. In this case, art changed day to day life.
The study of early civilization art is fascinating. It offers a view of our past cultures, beliefs, and technology. These pieces allow us to learn about our ancient ancestor’s lives.
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