Ancient art: 7 ways early humans saw their world


Bernie Friel/Universal Images Group/Collection Mix: Subjects/Getty Images

Rock paintings reveal humanity's natural creativity — and they can also reveal what was important to ancient humans.


Here are 7 rock paintings which show how ancient humans saw the world.

A new study published in the journal Nature Human Behavior describes what may be the oldest rock paintings in Australia. One kangaroo painting described in the paper may be 17,500 years old.

Peter Veth, Balanggarra Aboriginal

Ancient Sulawesi paintings of pigs dating back at least 43,900 years are so detailed researchers today can identify their exact species.

A. Brumm, et al. SCIENCE ADVANCES. (2021)

The Sulawesi warty pig is so common in paintings it may indicate ancient people in the area felt a spiritual connection to the animal.

A. Brumm, et al. SCIENCE ADVANCES. (2021)

Engravings from some 8,000 years ago show ancient humans felt a connection with dogs. These engravings depict hunting dogs on leashes.


Paintings found in the Amazon by the LASTJOURNEY project show how humans there once lived alongside extinct animals, including mastodons.

G. Morcote-Ríos, et al. QUATERNARY INTERNATIONAL. (2020)

Cave art may have even helped ancient humans develop language by practicing symbolic thinking.

Universal History Archive

Interestingly, one study claims animals in ancient paintings may actually represent constellations. If so, it would mean we had knowledge of astronomy thousands of years before the science is thought to have developed.

Alistair Coombs

Other scientists dispute that claim. Paul Pettitt, Ph.D, of Durham University, told Inverse the study was "embarassingly bad."

Universal History Archive

The images are described in a 2018 paper, which claims cave paintings found in Spain were made before the arrival of Homo sapiens.

D. L. Hoffman, et al. SCIENCE. (2018)


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