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  • Nitika Mehra

Earliest Known Paintings of the World

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a painting. It can be naturalistic and representational as in a still life, landscape painting, photographic, abstract, narrative, symbolistic, emotive, or political in nature.

The oldest known paintings are approximately 40,000 years old. José Luis Sanchidrián at the University of Cordoba, Spain, believes the paintings are more likely to have been painted by Neanderthals than early modern humans.

Earliest Known Paintings of the World
Group of Rhinos in the 'Chauvet Cave'

Images at the Chauvet cave in France are thought to be about 32,000 years old. They are engraved and painted using red ochre and black pigment and show horses, rhinoceros, lions, buffalo, mammoth or humans often hunting.

However, the earliest evidence of the act of painting has been discovered in two rock-shelters in Arnhem Land, in northern Australia. In the lowest layer of material at these sites, there are used pieces of ochre estimated to be 60,000 years old. Archaeologists have also found a fragment of rock painting preserved in a limestone rock-shelter in the Kimberley region of North-Western Australia, that is dated 40,000 years old. There are many other examples of cave paintings all over the world—in France, India, Spain, Portugal, China, Australia etc.

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