Humans have been making figurative art for at least forty thousand years – but we may have been carrying “found” art around for much longer.
Before written history
The Xiangkhoang Plateau in northern Laos is covered in thousands of prehistoric burial jars… and many more unexploded bombs.
A prehistoric pot found in Poland and a wooden slab pulled out of a Slovenian marsh are the earliest evidence of wheels in Europe.
Within the Luray Caverns in Virginia, United States, is an electric organ made of stalactites. It literally makes rock music.
The Sweet Track in Somerset, Britain, was built exactly 5,828 years ago.
A prehistoric Scythian tomb in Siberia contained the oldest surviving carpet in the world.
The Ishango bone, found in what is today part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and dating back 20,000 years, may contain some of the earliest evidence of mathematical thought.
Proto-Indo-European is thought to be the ancestor language of English, Latin, Greek, French, Russian, Urdu, Sanskrit, Farsi, and dozens of others. But what did it sound like?
When did we start wearing clothes? We don’t know for sure, but the genetics of lice, prehistoric needles, and ivory carvings give us some clues.
Dogs diverged genetically from wolves between 20 and 40 millennia ago. But the first specimen that is indisputably a dog was found in a German quarry and dates back 14,200 years.
When he arrived in London in 1850, Obaysch was the first hippopotamus in Europe for more than a millennium.
In 2008 archaeologists dug up a 2,800-year-old skull in Yorkshire, and discovered an extremely well preserved brain still inside.
In ancient art from Europe to India a particular artistic motif frequently appears: a male or female figure grabbing two wild creatures, one in each hand. These are the Master and Mistress of Animals.
The Areni-1 cave in southern Armenia is the site of the oldest shoe, and also the oldest winery, in the world.
Around five million years ago, the Strait of Gibraltar closed and the Mediterranean dried up. When it reopened, the sea refilled in less than two years.
Knitting is hundreds of years old, but similar techniques are even older: sprang dates back to 1400 BCE at least, and nålebinding as far as 6500 BCE.