Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead

Baboonhead, Art from Olduvai. 1.74 million years old

Baboonhead, Art from Olduvai. 1.74 million years old

Baboonhead, Olduvai Art
The question when man made his oldest art is important because it points to important mental capacities. In my first book on The History of Man (published in Dutch as ‘geschiedenis van de mens’) I argued that man had developed aesthetic feeling (the appreciation of beauty) through evolution, in the struggle for survival, a Darwinian view.
Art was everything man had made and evoked his aesthetic feeling. A very large definition but one that is necessary because it should cover the timeframe of more than 2 million years and all human cultures.
Three phases could be recognised in this evolution. The first phase in which man thought objects he found the nature were beautiful, e.g. the pebble of Makapansgat. It was not adapted by man, so in our definition it is not art. A second phase in which man retouched objects he found in nature, where he actively engaged. This is art because man changed an object to make it conform with what he found beautiful. All figurines are the Venuses of Berekhat Ram, 233.000/800.000 BP, and Tan Tan, 400.000 BP.
There is however a much older object that was adapted by man. It dates from 1.74 million years ago. That is the period, 1.8 M BP, that man gained control over fire, that acheulean tools were developed and Homo erectus/ergaster appeared. Mary Leakey published an article in 1971 with the results of the excavations in Olduvai between 1960 and 1963. It was in the surroundings that the oldest stone tools of hominids, 2.6 million years old, were found.
Her team had found a cobble of phonolite, a very hard-rock, that was adapted by man. It had a certain, natural resemblance with the head of a monkey. It was named baboonhead. It had a groove that ran around the skull. On the left cheek six cupules had been carved (see illustrations). Cupules would be made by man until recently, so during 1.8 million years. They were found in Africa, in India and were exported by man to Australia and Tasmania and -so to speak- recently in the Americas. A very long-lasting cultural continuity!

These and other finds reinforce the idea that man developed his mental capacities during a very long period and not in a short burst when Homo sapiens appeared.

Dr. Marc Vermeersch
Marc.Vermeersch@gmail.com

Additional information
Mary Leakey writes:
“In concluding this review of the lithic material from Oldowan and
Developed Oldowan Sites the grooved and pecked phonolite cobble found in Upper
Bed I at FLK North must be mentioned. This stone has unquestionably been
artificially shaped. But it seems unlikely that it could have served as a
tool or for any practical purpose. It is conceivable that a parallel exists
in the quartzite cobble found at Makapansgat in which natural weathering has
simulated the carving of two sets of hominid-or mre strictly primate- features
on parts of the surface. The resemblance to primate faces is immediately
obvious in this specimen, although it is entirely natural, whereas in the case
of the Olduvai stone a great deal of imagination is required in order to see
any pattern or significance in the form. With oblique lighting, however,
there is a suggestion of an elongate, baboon-like muzzle with faint
indications of a mouth and nostrils. By what is probably no more than a
coincidence, the pecked groove on the Olduvai stone is reproduced on the
Makapansgat specimen by a similar but natural groove and in both specimens the
positions of the grooves correspond to what would be the base of the hair line
if an anthropomorphic interpretation is considered. This is open to question,
but nevertheless the occurrence of such stones at hominid sites in such remote
periods is of considerable interest.”
M.D. Leakey, Olduvai Gorge3 Excavations in Beds I and II, 1960-1693, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), Vol. 3, p. 269

If you are interested in art you might like these blogs:
Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead Rather unknown, undeserved, the oldest known art in the world
The Origin of Aesthetic Feeling and Art Fundamental: How our aesthetic feeling originated in reproduction of man, a darwinian explanation.
The oldest statuettes adapted by man are between 233,000 and 800,000 years old
“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal ‘Der Löwenmensch” was found in Germany.
The oldest Love Statuette in the World They keep on loving for ever in the British Luseeum.
A virtual visit to the Lascaux Cave is mind blowing!
Nerja Caves: the oldest Cave Art in Europe, 42,000 years old Rock paintings , probably made by neanderthals

7000 BP: The Thinker and the Sitting Woman

The Thinker and the Sitting Woman. Hamangia culture, Romania, 7000 - 6600 years ago.

The Thinker and the Sitting Woman. Hamangia culture, Romania, 7000 – 6600 years ago.

In history, there are works of art that have a special place and that almost everyone knows: the golden mask of Tuthankhamun, the Pantheon in Rome, the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, the sunflowers of Van Gogh, … an endless list. Art works from a much older past are barely known to the general public but often they earn to be known. Some have of an extraordinary quality. One of my favourite works in this regard is “The Thinker and the Sitting Woman” thatwere found in Romania and are between 6,600 and 7,000 years old.

We know that these people were farmers. Chances are that they were resting after a day of working. The woman sits relaxed just like the man. He is thinking. About what is open for speculation.

A paradox

Both statuettes have a modern look. If we would see them for the first time, without prior knowledge, then we might think that these are very recent works of art, that is not more than 100 years old. Compare The Thinker with the bronze statue of Rodin[1], ‘Le penseur’, from 1902. We may spontaneously think that this is older than ‘The Thinker and the Sitting Woman ‘.

Rodin, statue known as 'Le penseur' (The thinker). Rodin created it as an image of Dante Aleghieri, the Italian writer. Its was 'The Poet'

Rodin, statue known as ‘Le penseur’ (The thinker). Rodin created it as an image of Dante Aleghieri, the Italian writer. Its was ‘The Poet’

Surprisingly, it is also true that some very old works of art sometimes show style characteristics that were reinvented in the 20th century. Paul Levy wrote about ‘The Thinker and the Sitting Woman’: “Their elongated necks and small heads are compellingly reminiscent of Matisse and the Cubist painters and sculptors, and a curator told me that it is just possible that Brancusi saw them.”[2]

Egyptian royal couple.  27th century BCE. Very static in comparison with 'The Thinker and the Sitting Woman'

Egyptian royal couple. 27th century BCE. Very static in comparison with ‘The Thinker and the Sitting Woman’

Hamangia culture. Headless stauette. Very stylised. It was probably worn as part of a necklace.

Hamangia culture. Headless stauette. Very stylised. It was probably worn as part of a necklace.

The Hamangia culture and woodworking

The Hamangia culture in Romania began around 5250/5200 BCE and lasted until around 4550/4500 BCE. It was a culture of farmers who lived in small communities, without a state. Technically, they were at the same level as the first European farmers that came from Anatolia had moved to Europe more than 1000 years before. The statuettes were found in 1956. They were made of clay and baked in an oven. Remarkable is that the man sits on a small stool. It is one of the oldest depictions of furniture in history. Such a seat is not difficult to make but like so many things it is very difficult inventing it, starting from zero. The stool indicates that almost 7,000 years ago farmers in South-East Europe had developed woodworking and the necessary stone tools.

The figurines ‘ the thinker and the seated woman’ undoubtedly belong in the gallery of the greatest works of art created by man. Today they look as fresh and intriguing as almost 7000 years ago.

Marc.Vermeersch@gmail.com


[1] The statue of Rodin was originally called the poet and represented Alegieri Dante
[2] Paul Levy, Beautiful Ashmolean Exhibition Offers Glimpse of ‘Old Europe’, May 21, 2010. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB127438940492094541.html

If you are interested in art you might like these blogs:
Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead Rather unknown, undeserved, the oldest known art in the world
The Origin of Aesthetic Feeling and Art Fundamental: How our aesthetic feeling originated in reproduction of man, a darwinian explanation.
The oldest statuettes adapted by man are between 233,000 and 800,000 years old
“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal ‘Der Löwenmensch” was found in Germany.
The oldest Love Statuette in the World They keep on loving for ever in the British Luseeum.
A virtual visit to the Lascaux Cave is mind blowing!
Nerja Caves: the oldest Cave Art in Europe, 42,000 years old Rock paintings , probably made by neanderthals

Nerja Caves: the oldest Cave Art in Europe, 42,000 years old

Rock Art of the Nerja Caves (ES) is 42,000 years old

Rock Art of the Nerja Caves (ES) is 42,000 years old

The title of one of my previous blogs was “Chauvet Cave, the oldest known cave art in Europe“. This title has to be changed. A fortnight ago (feb. 11, 2012)  professor Jose Luis Sanchidrian (University of Corboba) announced that six cave paintings had been found in the Nerja Caves 35 km from Malaga (Andalusia, Spain). Datings done on organic deposits beside the paintings gave an age between 43,500 and 42,300 years. In 2013 results of datings of the paintings themselves should be published.

The pictured animals resemble seals but bear stripes. An observer thought they might represent a kind of fish species.
The most important of this find is that it is 10,000 years older than the rock paintings of the Chauvet Cave (F). Chauvet with an age up to 32,500 years seems suddenly much younger and Lascaux, up to 17,000 years old, suddenly seems young, some 25,000 years younger than the finds in the Nerja Caves.
This find could be very important for another reason.
Painted by neanderthalensis or by sapiens?
So far it was assumed that Neanderthals lived South of the Ebro at least 28,000 years ago or more recent. They made stone tools that technically belonged to the mousterian which corresponded with what Neanderthals produced until the arrival of Homo sapiens in Europe.
Recently it was argued by some researchers that Homo sapiens arrived in Europe much earlier than was accepted until recently. They suppose modern man arrived around 40,000 years ago. To be followed.
Professor Sanchidrian thinks the paintings were made by neanderthals. If we are naughty, we would ask whether Homo sapiens took over rock paintings from … Neanderthals. To be followed.
It is remarkable that these paintings represent animals just as the paintings of the much younger caves in France and Spain which were undoubtedly made by Homo sapiens. Was totemism a part of neanderthal culture?
Source: La prima obra de arte de la humanidad, ¿hecha por neandertales? http://www.abc.es/20120207/cultura-arte/abci-primera-obra-arte-humanidad-201202071253.html
If you are interested in art you might like these blogs:
Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead Rather unknown, undeserved, the oldest known art in the world
The Origin of Aesthetic Feeling and Art Fundamental: How our aesthetic feeling originated in reproduction of man, a darwinian explanation.
The oldest statuettes adapted by man are between 233,000 and 800,000 years old
“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal ‘Der Löwenmensch” was found in Germany.
The oldest Love Statuette in the World They keep on loving for ever in the British Luseeum.
A virtual visit to the Lascaux Cave is mind blowing!
Nerja Caves: the oldest Cave Art in Europe, 42,000 years old Rock paintings , probably made by neanderthals

The oldest European Venus figurine was found in the Hohle Fels cave (Germany)

Venus figurine from Hohle Fels (Schwaben, Germany), the oldest from Europe

Venus figurine from Hohle Fels (Schwaben, Germany), the oldest from Europe

In another blog we discussed two stone statuettes found in Tan-Tan (Morocco) and Berekhat Ram (Golan Heights, Syria) that are respectively 400,000 years respectively and 251,000 à 800,000 years old. These stone figurines had a natural shape that reminded of a woman. They were slightly modified to look even better on a woman. Interestingly, the Venus of Tan-Tan was smeared with red ochre.

Female figurines have a very long tradition in human art.

The oldest European Venus figurine was found in the Hohle Fels cave in Schwaben (a region of Germany) in 2008 by Nicholas Conard (University of Tübingen). It is made of mammoth ivory, 5.97 cm high, 3.46 cm wide and it weighs 33.3 grams what made it suitable to carry on trips. Almost all hunters and gatherers lived as nomads. The age of the statuette is estimated between 35,000 and 40,000 cal BP (Before Present). It was found in the deepest layers of the Hohle Fels. It presented, as most of the statuettes of the 25,000 following years, a heavily built woman with large protruding breasts, buttocks, a belly and a vagina that are disproportionate. It has as the figurines that would be created much later no face, as if a face was not important.
Look at a short film from Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature/videoarchive/prehistoricpinup/

Archaeologists found in the cave another 25 other Aurignacian figurines of animals or figurines that are half-man/half-animal. (E.g. the Lion Man: ) but no other Venus figurine. The Hohle Fels figurine was older than the other figurines in the Hohle Fels cave. It is also circa 5000 à 10,000 years older than other Venus figurines from the Gravettian, such as the Venus of Galgenberg (Austria).

4 sides of the Venus figurine from Hohle Fels (Schwaben, Germany), the oldest from Europe

4 sides of the Venus figurine from Hohle Fels (Schwaben, Germany), the oldest from Europe

A fertility symbol?

Nicholas Conard  thinks that this Hohle Fels statuette could be a fertility symbol. There are no testimonials from this period nor later where we can rely on but we can list a number of facts and possibilities.

– Most of these figurines were small, portable. They were probably carried around by European Homo sapiens.

– He spent much time creating these figurines, he considered them important.

A fertility Symbol. If it were merely a symbol to increase fertility, then a representation of a pregnant woman would have been sufficient.

A sexual symbol. These figurines represent women with strong sexual accents, with a big belly but no pregnant women. Problem is that hunters and gatherers, before the emergence of agriculture, did not know that sex could lead to pregnancy. Women simply became pregnant. This may seem strange to us, but of course couples had more than once sex before they knew a woman was pregnant. In the framework of group marriage, they had not seldom sex with more than one partner. The link between sex and become pregnant was not evident to them. These figurines had a sexual meaning. The pronounced forms, the lack of a head, point in that direction. Pronounced female forms today are found in sexually charged images. It could be a male constant to have strong appreciation such images.

– They usually occur in Eurasia, but less in the Middle East. The two statuettes mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the figurines of Tan-Tan and Berekhat Ram, could fit in the same tradition though they date from the period of Homo heidelbergensis. The distance is expressed in time great but a connection cannot be excluded.

– Chances are that descent was matrilinear. The Venus figurines could therefore represent female ancestors. I think the probability is small but it may not be excluded.

These figurines were probably sexual symbols. Human sex is a very powerful motif. They were part of a specific Eurasian culture and tradition. Everywhere in the world sexual symbols as e.g. were made such as the statue of Ain Shakri or phallus symbols in many cultures.

Marc.Vermeersch@gmail.com


[1] Hohje Fels is also written as Hohlefels in German.

If you are interested in art you might like these blogs:
Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead 
Rather unknown, undeserved, the oldest known art in the world

The Origin of Aesthetic Feeling and Art Fundamental: How our aesthetic feeling originated in reproduction of man, a darwinian explanation.

7000 BP: The Thinker and the Sitting Woman Two statuettes, one amazinly modern though it maybe 7000 years old

Chauvet Cave, the oldest known cave art in Europe The recently discovered cave shows that the European late palaeolithic culture lasted at least 20,000 years.

The oldest statuettes adapted by man are between 233,000 and 800,000 years old.

The oldest European Venus figurine was found in the Hohle Fels cave (Germany) It is between 35,000 and 40,000 years old.

“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal ‘Der Löwenmensch” was found in Germany.

The oldest Love Statuette in the World They keep on loving for ever in the British Museum.

A virtual visit to the Lascaux Cave is mind blowing!

Venus from Galgenberg (Austria), ca. 30,000 BP

Venus from Galgenberg (Austria), ca. 30,000 BP

La más antigua figura de Venus europea se ha encontrado en la cueva de Hohle Fels (Alemania)

The oldest statuettes adapted by man

The Venus of Berekhat Ram and the Venus of Tan-Tan

The Venus of Berekhat Ram and the Venus of Tan-Tan

Left: the find of Berekhat Ram (Syria) is between 800,000 and 233,000 years old, 3,5 cm high.
Right: the Venus of Tan-Tan (Morocco) is about 400,000 years old, 6 cm high.

These statuettes were probably stones that had a strong resemblance with human females. They were slightly changed, e.g. around the neck. They are the work of the late Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis.  They prove, if necessary, that aesthetic feeling and thinking in symbols are very old. The mental distance between us and people they lived hundreds of thousands of years ago might be smaller than was thought before.

As time progressed more objects were altered by man. Stones found in nature were more and more retouched.
This is not surprising, the spread of acheulean techniques, where man was able to make hand axes (stone tools) with a two-sided altered form was proof that there was a more than a sufficient mental and technical basis for art production. It is probable that artifacts made from wood and bone were the bulk of art production.

The Venus of Berekhat Ram:

“The base object is an anthropomorphic red tufic pebble, 35 mm (1.4 in) long, which has had at least three grooves, possibly incised on it by a sharp-edged stone. One is a deep groove that encircles the narrower, more rounded end of the pebble, two shallower, curved grooves run down the sides. These grooves can be interpreted as marking the neck and arms of a figure. They closely resemble marks made in similar material by sharp-edged tools during exercises in experimental technology.” (Wikipedia)

The Venus of Tan-Tan:

“The Venus of Tan-Tan is an alleged artifact found in Morocco. It is 6 centimeters long quartzite rock, and has been interpreted as a depiction of the human form, gender indeterminate and faceless, dated between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago. It was discovered in 1999, during an archaeological survey by Lutz Fiedler, in a river terrace deposit on the north bank of the Draa River a few kilometers south of the Moroccan town of Tan-Tan.” (Wikipedia) Red ochre was found on this statuette. Red ochre was a symbol for blood/life across the world and across different types of man. Applied on a statuette it may have meant that it represented a female ancestor. The pronounced forms of the statuette might imply that it was (also) a sexual token.  

Not all researchers agree that man changed some small aspects of these statuettes. They think that these statuettes are geofacts, that had a strong natural resemblance with a woman. They miss the essential point: acheulean  technique was since at least 1,7 M BP on a level that making slight changes on a geofact was not a problem at all for man. The main point however is not the use of technique but the proof of thinking in symbols. That red ochre was found on the Venus of Tan-Tan is a proof beyond doubt of symbolic thinking.

It is important to note this is portable art. These are small objects suited to be transported by people who were hunters and gatherers and lived as nomads. Heavy objects were not suited to be taken on trips.

The Venuses of Tan-Tan and Berehat Ram link to the pebble of Makapansgat that proofs that a predecessor of man, probably australopithecus, had aesthetic feeling and the much younger Venuses of Europe and northern Asia that could have had the same function(s).


marc.i.vermeersch@gmail.com

If you are interested in art you might like these blogs:
Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead Rather unknown, undeserved, the oldest known art in the world
7000 BP: The Thinker and the Sitting Woman
 Two statuettes, one amazinly modern though it maybe 7000 years old
The Origin of Aesthetic Feeling and Art Fundamental: How our aesthetic feeling originated in reproduction of man, a darwinian explanation.
Chauvet Cave, the oldest known cave art in Europe The recently discovered cave shows that the European late palaeolithic culture lasted at least 20,000 years.
The oldest statuettes adapted by man are between 233,000 and 800,000 years old
“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal ‘Der Löwenmensch” was found in Germany.
The oldest Love Statuette in the World They keep on loving for ever in the British Museum.
A virtual visit to the Lascaux Cave is mind blowing!

“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal

the lion Man

Lion Man, ‘der Löwenmensch’. The oldest statuette with a combination man-animal.

“Lion Man”, ‘der Löwenmensch’ in German, is one of the oldest and certainly one of the most remarkable statuettes in human history. It is (calibrated) about 35.000 years old. Because the quality of the art production of neanderthalers never came near of that of Homo sapiens we may suppose that is was made by the first wave of modern people that reached South-Germany.

The statuette was put together from hundreds of pieces. The first 200 parts were found in a cave in Hohlenstein-Stadel, Schwaben1, Germany. It was only in 1969 that researchers realised that this was a statuette that was a combination of a human and an animal, man and lion. Later more pieces were found and the sculpture was completely recomposed. It is 28 cm high and made of mammoth ivory. The height is exceptional for a mobile work of art. It was only when people became sedentary that they would make larger statues. Hunters and gatherers were nomads (there were some exceptions), they could not take many possessions on their trips. A statuette made of stone was seldom larger than 10 cm.
In Schwaben two comparable statuettes were found. One was found in Hohler Fels. Its height was only 2,5 cm.

The explanation reseachers gave for the meaning of this work of art was: a shaman disguised as a lion, a fabulous creature…

For hunters and gatherers hunting, the procurement of meat, was fascinating. Hunters thought animals. They peopled their imagination. We should not be surprised that their paintings in caves mainly show us animals. Many statuettes represent animals but also voluptuous women, the so called Venuses. The Lion Man however is a combination of lion2 and man. Can this be explained?

The combination of a human and an animal is world wide not exceptional. It is observed in Middle America, Latin-America, Mesopotamia, Egypt and India. It cannot be a coincidence that this was the case in different cultures. When Homo sapiens left Africa between 65,000 and 80,000 years ago, he took with him a lot of customs  and a common religion, the ancestor cult3. This belief, that exists until today, implied dat living beings had a soul: humans, animals, plants (holy trees),  objects, in other words animism. People believed theu had the same soul that could reincarnate from ma, to animal etc., but also in the opposite direction.

The core of this belief still exists today in Hinduism. Originally, people with the same totem were organised in societies of hunters and gatherers that were not identical with their clan or family. They owed each other support, had meetings, initiations holy objects and totem symbols. It is this identification of man with his totem that forms the base of the world wide appearance of statuettes and statues of hybrid creatures, half human and half animal. The historical background of totemism has its origin in Africa more than 80,000 years ago. On that common base developed long after the exodus out of Africa – and this time not connected with eack other – totem statues and totem symbols where man and animal were combined. The Egyptian sphinx had a human head and the body of a lion. Horus had the head of a hawk and a human body. Sobek had the head of a crocodile and the body of a human. These are all examples of combinations from man and beast.

The Löwenmensch is probably a totemic object. Taking in account its small height and the fact that it was found in a cave where it may have been preserved may point in the direction of a holy object of the lion totem. That such a totem existed 35,000 years ago is a distinct possibility. This is confirmed by the finding of two other figurines with a combination human-lion or human-feline. In 2004 a statuette with a height of 2,5 cm was found. In Geißenklösterle  another figurine can be interpreted as a combination of a man and a  feline.

The Lion Man connects us  with the first modern men in Europe 35,000 years ago and later civilisations that are 5,000 years old or younger. It is also an expression of the great esthetic feeling that is typical for Homo sapiens and his great skill.

marc.i.vermeersch@gmail.com

If you are interested in art you might like these blogs:
Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead 
Rather unknown, undeserved, the oldest known art in the world

The Origin of Aesthetic Feeling and Art Fundamental: How our aesthetic feeling originated in reproduction of man, a darwinian explanation.

7000 BP: The Thinker and the Sitting Woman Two statuettes, one amazinly modern though it maybe 7000 years old

Chauvet Cave, the oldest known cave art in Europe The recently discovered cave shows that the European late palaeolithic culture lasted at least 20,000 years.

The oldest statuettes adapted by man are between 233,000 and 800,000 years old.

The oldest European Venus figurine was found in the Hohle Fels cave (Germany) It is between 35,000 and 40,000 years old.

“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal ‘Der Löwenmensch” was found in Germany.

The oldest Love Statuette in the World They keep on loving for ever in the British Museum.

A virtual visit to the Lascaux Cave is mind blowing!

1 Schwaben was to the aurignacian what Firenze (Florence) was for Europe in the art of the 16th and 17th century.
2
At that time there were lions living in Europe.
3
Central belief of the ancestor cult is that all living beings have a soul, their belief is animistic. The word animism is derived form the latin word ‘anima’, soul.  

Chauvet Cave, the 2nd oldest known cave art in Europe

Chauvet Cave, rhinoceroses

Chauvet Cave, rhinoceroses

The oldest known cave art in Europe is the Chauvet Cave in France. It is a rather recent discovery (1994) in comparison with the well known Lascaux Cave (1940). The rock art of both caves is comparable for their style but also because they are an expression of the same genius.

The oldest paintings from the Chauvet Cave were made by hunters and gatherers around 32,400 years ago. Man had probably long traditions in making art on skins, wood and tattooing his own body. The makers of this rock art may have discussed what they would paint and how to do it. They had to make strenuous efforts to make these paintings. They had to crawl  in the dark through long and narrow corridors with their material. Paint had to be taken in their mouth and sprawled on the rock, often from a very uncomfortable position.

Lascaux is, with paintings up to 17,000 years old, much younger than Chauvet. Time between today and Lascaux is about as much as between Lascaux and Chauvet. The paintings of another cave famous for its paintings, Altamira  (Cantabria, Spain), is estimated to be 15,000 years old.

On the follwing link you will find a trailer of a coming documentary made by Werner Herzog on the Chauvet Cave, the ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’ . http://vimeo.com/18964665

Dr. Marc Vermeersch. The oldest known cave art in Europe:
Nerja Caves: the oldest Cave Art in Europe, 42,000 years old Rock paintings , probably made by neanderthals.
The oldest known art in the world: Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead Rather unknown, but undeserved,

If you are interested in art you might also like these blogs:
The Origin of Aesthetic Feeling and Art Fundamental: How our aesthetic feeling originated in reproduction of man, a darwinian explanation.
The oldest statuettes adapted by man are between 233,000 and 800,000 years old
“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal ‘Der Löwenmensch” was found in Germany.
The oldest Love Statuette in the World They keep on loving for ever in the British Luseeum.
A virtual visit to the Lascaux Cave is mind blowing!

Parts of this blog were taken from ‘Marc Vermeersch. De geschiedenis van de mens. Deel I. Jagers en verzamelaars. Boek 2, de maatschappij van jagers en verzamelaars. p.185.

Chauvet Cave Art (France) Horses bisons rihoncerosses 31,000 BP

Chauvet Cave Art (France) Horses bisons rihnoceros 31,000 BP

Chauvet Cave Art (France) Horses, bisons rihnoceros 31,000 BP

Chauvet (France) Cave Art. Lion/lionesses heads.

Chauvet (France) Cave Art. Engraving of an owl.

Chauvet (France) Cave Art. Engraving of an owl.

The Chauvet has not only paintings but also engravings such as this beautiful owl.

Chauvet (France) Cave Art painting of hyena's. 20,000 BP.

Chauvet (France) Cave Art painting of hyena’s. 20,000 BP.

Chauvet (France) Cave Art painting of hyena’s. 20,000 BP. At that time hyena’s were living since a long time in Europe.

If you are interested in art you might like these blogs:
Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead
7000 BP: The Thinker an the Sitting Woman
The oldest statuettes adapted by man
“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal
The oldest Love Statuette in the World
Chauvet Cave, the oldest known cave art in Europe
A virtual visit to the Lascaux Cave
Nerja Caves: the oldest Cave Art in Europe, 42,000 years old Rock paintings , probably made by neanderthals
general:
The origin of aesthetic Feeling and Art Basic text about the significance of art in a darwinian point of view.

7000 BP. The Thinker and the Sitting Woman. Two extraordinary statuettes from Romania.

The oldest Cartoons in the World? 14,000 BP They were engraved in the La Marche Cave in France. They are as fresh as they were 14,000 years ago.