Prehistoric Rock Art to Visit Around the World

Scientists just discovered some of the world’s oldest art in a cave in Indonesia. Want to see more prehistoric masterpieces? Here are eight other options

A hand stencil design on the wall of a cave in Sulawesi, Indonesia. (Kinez Riza)
smithsonian.com

A recently released study claiming that some of the paintings in the Maros-Pangkep caves in Indonesia are nearly as old as European prehistoric cave art has reverberated through both the science and art worlds, challenging long-held Eurocentric views about the birth of human creativity. But no matter where prehistoric art began, its remnants can now be found in almost every corner of the globe, from Argentina to Africa. While scientists and researchers are busy searching the Indonesian caves for more signs of prehistoric art, consider checking out these eight examples of ancient creativity. 

Lascaux, France

In September of 1940, four boys and a dog made a discovery that would change modern understanding of art: the prehistoric paintings in Lascaux, a series of caves in the Dordogne region of France. The cave art instantly captivated the world, bringing in more than a million visitors between 1948 and 1963. The influx of tourists, however, began to damage the delicate artwork, leading officials to close the cave to the public in the 1960s. A replica of the cave, Lascaux II, was created to allow visitors to experience the artwork without damaging the original, which is now almost completely closed to humans (a few scientists are allowed into the cave each year to do research). Today, the original cave has been designated a World Heritage Site, and is often referred to as "The Sistine Chapel of Prehistory." Carbon dating has shown that the paintings, which depict animals such as horses, bulls and deer, as well as humans and abstract signs, are between 15,000 and 17,000 years old. 

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus