Sculptures have always been a great source of understanding human history. They make us visualize the world our ancestors lived in. Whether they date back thousands of years or just some hundreds, they simply show us what was life like back in those times. Sculptures are made by artists with various tools and represent us the culture and lifestyle of the living beings in prehistoric and historic times. With enormous progress in science, new excavations are being constantly made to know about our ancestors. Here’s our list of the top 10 oldest sculptures known to the world:
Bhimbetka and Daraki-Chattan Cupules (290–700,000 BC)
The Bhimbetka and Daraki-Chattan Cupules are the oldest pieces of prehistoric art ever found. Tracing back to 700,000 BC, they were discovered in Madhya Pradesh in Central India. At least two of these cupules are anticipated to belong to the Lower Paleolithic Period. While the Bhimbetka cave is comprised of more than 700 rock shelters, the Daraki Chattan Cave is home to some of the earliest stone tools in the world. These sculptures known as cupules are assumed to have been used for different purposes like ceremonial purposes.
Venus of Berekhat Ram (230,000–700,000 BC)
Being a controversial sculpture, the Venus of Berekhat Ram was discovered by the archaeologist N. Goren-Inbar from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It was founded in 1981 on the Golan Heights located between Israel and Syria. One of the oldest sculptures in the world it dates back to 230,000 to 700,000 BC. Even after carrying out microscopic analysis, the paleontologists are still not sure whether the sculpture is a byproduct of a natural erosion or was intentionally created by human beings. Overlooking all the discussions, the Venus of Berekhat Ram deserves to be included in the list.
Venus of Tan-Tan (200,000–500,000 BC)
Found in the Moroccan town of Tan-Tan near the Draa River, the Venus of Tan-Tan is an applauding piece of prehistoric art. Though some of the sculpture’s markings seem to be natural, the scientists agree that they were accentuated by some human tools. According to the studies, it is believed to have been carved out of quartzite rock belonging to the pre-homo sapiens era. The Venus of Tan-Tan is over 200,000 years old and is roughly 6 centimeters in length, 2.6 centimeters in width and 1.2 centimeters thick.
Lion Man of the Hohlenstein Stadel (38,000 BC)
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The Lion Man of Hohlenstein Stadel, famously known as the Lion-Human is one of the most jaw-dropping prehistoric sculptures ever discovered. It is the oldest known animal carving which was originally found in 1939 in the Swabian Alps, Southwest Germany. The sculpture depicts a human body with a lion’s head, created from a piece of mammoth ivory. The gender of the reconstructed statue still seems to be unclear as some scientists call it Höhlenlöwin (a female European cave lion). Dating back to 38000 BC, The Lion Man is today exhibited at the Ulm Museum, Germany.
Venus of Hohle Fels (38,000–33,000 BC)
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Dating back to approximately 38,000 and 33,000 BC, The Venus of Hohle Fels is considered as one of its type in the world. It was discovered in Germany’s Southwestern region and is believed to have been sculpted in the Aurignacian tradition. Without any doubt, the sculpture is the oldest depiction of humans ever found. Carved out of ivory, the small female figure doesn’t have a head, but a ring in its place. It is only 60 millimeters in length. According to the scientists, The Venus of Hohle Fels may have been linked to some shamanistic beliefs and rituals, or represented female fertility.
Vogelherd Caves Ivory Carvings (30,000 BC)
Discovered by a group of archaeologists from the University of Tubingen in 2007, the Vogelherd Caves Ivory Carvings are over 30,000 years old. They were found in the Swabian Jura plateau of Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany and are believed to be the oldest ivory carvings know to us. Originally a total of five pieces, created out of mammoth ivory were found in the site. Analyzing the dating and understanding the geological context, the Vogelherd Ivory Carvings are believed to belong to the Aurignacian culture.
Venus of Dolni Vestonice (24,000–27,000 BC)
The Venus of Dolni Vestonice, dating back to between 24,000 to 27,000 BC, originates from the Gravettian period. The sculpture is one of the oldest known ceramic figures with a clay outer body that was fired at a lower temperature. It is anticipated to be the first ever fire-baked pottery sculpture. After finding and analyzing a fingerprint located on the statue, the scientists believe it to be of a young human (probably that of a child between 10-15 years). The Venus of Dolni Vestonice was found in South Moravia, Czechoslovakia in 1925.
The Slavic idols of Old Russia (7,500 BC)
Rare yet treasured pieces of art, The Slavic Idols of Old Russia are made up of wood and stone. When reconstructed properly, these artifacts are believed to have epitomized the Slavic Gods in the middle stone age. Due to the fragile nature of most of the wooden sculptures, these sculptures were made out of the wood of rare trees. The idols are more than 7,500 years of age are today displayed in the world’s most incredible museums. The Shrirgir Idol, one of the Slavic Idols is the oldest known wooden sculpture in the world. A team of archaeologists excavated the sculptures in 1890 in Middle Urals, Yekaterinburg.
Venus de Milo (100-130 BC)
Created approximately around 100 to 130 BC, The Venus de Milo is made up of marble. This larger than life sculpture stands at 6 feet 8-inch-high and is believed to represent the Greek goddess of love and beauty- Aphrodite. Assumed to be the masterpiece of the famous Greek sculptor Alexandros of Antioch, the sculpture was accidentally found in a farm field. Today Venus de Milo is displayed at one of the most jaw-dropping museums in the world, The Louvre in Paris.
Hermes and The Infant Dionysus (4 BC)
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Hermes and the Infant Dionysus, widely known as the Hermes of Olympus or the Hermes of Praxiteles dates back to the 4th century BC. It belongs to the wide collection of the ancient Greek sculptures and was excavated in 1877. Exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia, the sculpture was actually found at the ruins of the Temple of Hera, Olympia. Hermes and the Infant Dionysus is one of the most controversial structures among art historians. There is confusion about its attribution to the Praxitelean style.