The Birth of Art

Homo sapiens appeared in Europe having traveled out of Africa, migrating gradually through the Middle East up into Turkey and from there west into Europe where they arrived sometime before 40,000 BP.  Once they reached the river valleys of southern Germany works of art begin to appear in the archaeological record.  Nowhere previous to this time and nowhere along the migration route has anything resembling sculptures or paintings been found.  The earliest works of art presently known are from caves found in the Lone and Ach River Valleys.  These include beautifully done carvings from mammoth ivory of a horse, a mammoth, a buffalo and a lion.  These four have been dated to 40,000 BP.  These animals figurines are the oldest known artworks on the globe.  The most interesting figurine found in this area is the Lionman found in Hohlenstein-Stadel cave.  It is a ivory figurine nearly twelve inch tall of a lion with a  human body.  Found in small pieces in 1939, it was neglected due to the war and then forgotten about until 1988 when the fragments were found in a box in a dusty bin in the back of a museum and were reconstructed.  When the importance of the find was immediately recognized they went back to the cave and sieved the dirt and found hundreds more pieces which are still being painstakingly assembled.  It has been dated to 35,000 to 40,000 year BP.  It is the first statue ever discovered in the archaeological record of an imaginary being that is a composite creature, part human and part animal.  The oldest known human figure is the well known Venus of Hohle Fels, a large busted female with exaggerated genitals that was excavated and dated to at least 35,000 BP.

 

Early Paleolithic female figurine

Early Paleolithic female figurine

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