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Cave paintings El Castilo

Photo: Pedro Saura,

The oldest paintings (rock art) in the world are 40 000 years old and are discovered in the El Castillo cave in Cantabria, Spain.

It’s considered that the cave paintings are made for communication purposes or have religious or ceremonial meaning. Humans are represented mainly by images of hands, mostly hand stencils made by blowing pigment on a hand held to the wall. The wild animals are also a common subject and are remarkably similar around the world – bison, horses, aurochs, and deer. Pigments used include red and yellow ochre, hematite, manganese oxide and charcoal.

CavePainting Maxime AubertGriffithUnivAustNatGeo

35,000 years old are the earliest known cave paintings of animals at Maros on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. (Photo by Maxime Aubert, National Geographic)

Cave Art

For Europe the oldest figurative paintings are found in the Chauvet Cave in France, 30 000 BCE (Photo by HTO, via Wikimedia Commons) , and in the Coliboaia Cave in Romania (32 000 years old).

Other examples of this early art are the cave paintings of bulls in Altamira, Spain (10 000 BCE) and the Laas Geel complex in Somalia (5 000 years old).

Cave Paintings

Cave art Laas Geel

Photo by Abdullah Geelah, Wikipedia