From family heirlooms to antiques shops to museums, many Americans share an obsession with the extremely old. This includes both man-made artifacts, such as a 130,000-year old piece of jewelry, and natural relics, such as the fossilized remains of a Nyasasaurus found in Africa believed to be the oldest dinosaur fossil on Earth.
When the history books are not enough, these relics give us a tangible glimpse into the style, materials, and needs of another time.
The early cave paintings, like the 40,000 year-old ones in El Castillo, Spain, lack some of the later-developed perspective techniques and drawing tools.
In other cases, mankind’s first attempts at art, photography, architecture, and music can be either beautiful in their simplicity or impressive in their ingenuity. The earliest known photograph, Nicéphore Niépce’s “View from the Window at Le Gras,” isn’t a beautiful landscape or a poignant look at a subject. But capturing the first image paved the way for entirely new ways for people to express themselves.
Of course, many of the oldest items on earth do not invite any artistic analysis because they were either around long before humanity was around or because they are naturally created. This includes the oldest tree, over 5,000 years old, and the oldest known rock, which is slightly older than that — by about 229 million, 995 thousand years.
24/7 Tempo reviewed scientific journals, record collecting organizations, newspapers, and other sources to identify the oldest known item in each of a number of categories. Often, there is less than a historical or scientific consensus as to which is the actual oldest item. These are not necessarily the first thing made in a particular category, rather, they are the oldest surviving version.
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