List of Stone Age art

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Bison Licking Insect Bite; 15,000-13,000 BC; antler; National Museum of Prehistory (Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, France)

This is a descriptive list of Stone Age art, the period of prehistory characterised by the widespread use of stone tools. This article contains, by sheer volume of the artwork discovered, a very incomplete list of the works of the painters, sculptors, and other artists who created what is now called prehistoric art. For fuller lists see Art of the Upper Paleolithic, Art of the Middle Paleolithic, and Category:Prehistoric art and its many sub-categories.

Upper Paleolithic[edit]


The Löwenmensch figurine, ca. 40,000-35,000 yrs BP, discovered in Hohlenstein-Stadel, now in Museum Ulm.

The oldest undisputed figurative art appears with the Aurignacian, about 40,000 years ago, which is associated with the earliest presence of Cro-Magnon artists in Europe. Figurines with date estimates of 40,000 years are the so-called Lion-man and Venus of Hohle Fels, both found in the Southern Germany caves of the Swabian Jura.

An artistic depiction of a group of rhinos was made in the Chauvet Cave 30,000 to 32,000 years ago.
The artist depicts a group of wild horses (from Chauvet Cave, France, ca. 31,000 years old)
  • Cave art
    • La Pasiega cave (Spain) – an art gallery created in prehistoric times, the exhibition of artwork here runs for at least 120 meters. Contains ladder-shaped abstract drawings controversially dated to older than 64,800 years (Mousterian).
    • Altamira cave (Spain) – in 1879 the first prehistoric paintings and drawings were discovered in this cave, which soon became famous for their depth of color and depictions of animals, hands, and abstract shapes.
    • Chauvet Cave (France) – some of the earliest cave paintings known, and considered among the most important prehistoric art sites.
    • Coliboaia cave (Romania) contains the oldest known cave paintings of Central Europe, radiocarbon dated to 32,000 and 35,000 BP
    • El Castillo cave, one of the Monte Castillo caves (Spain) – contains decorations in red ochre paint which has been blown onto the walls in the forms of hand stencils as long as 37,000 years ago, and painted dots. One faint red dot has been dated to 40,800 years ago, making it the oldest dated cave decoration in the world.[2][3][4][5]
    • Lascaux caves (France) – contains some of the best known artworks of early painters, many of those portraying large animals.
    • Bhimbetka rock shelters (India) – the shelters, decorated with art from 30,000 years ago, contain the oldest evidence of artists exhibiting their work on the Indian sub-continent.


The Gravettian spans the Last Glacial Maximum, ca. 33–21 kya. The Solutrean (c. 22–17 kya) may or may not be included as the final phase of the Gravettian.

Epigravettian, Magdalenian[edit]

A 16,000-year-old piece of art from the Lascaux cave in France
Magdalenian Horse, c. 15,000 BCE, Musée d'Archéologie Nationale, France
Swimming Reindeer, a 13,000-year-old mammoth-tusk sculpture now residing in the British Museum, depicts a female on the right and a male on the left.


In this Gwion Gwion rock painting from Australia the artist portrays tasseled costumed figures in various poses or actions.

Australia and parts of Southeast Asia remained in the Paleolithic stage until European contact. The oldest firmly dated rock-art painting in Australia is a charcoal drawing on a rock fragment found during the excavation of the Nawarla Gabarnmang rock shelter in south western Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. Dated at 28,000 years, it is one of the oldest known pieces of rock art on Earth with a confirmed date.

  • Gwion Gwion rock paintings (Australia) – Aboriginal artists painted well over a million paintings in this site in the Kimberley, many of human figures ornamented with accessories such as bags, tassels and headdresses.[10] These artworks are well over 20,000 years old.
  • Gabarnmung (Australia) – this rock-art site in the Northern Territory features the oldest artwork in Australia at over 28,000 years. Aboriginal artists painted fish, crocodiles, people, and spiritual figures, mostly on the site's ceilings.[11][12] The site also includes panels of recent paintings, radiocarbon dated to between AD 1433–1631 and AD 1658–1952 (calibrated 95% CI), consistent with the reports that the cave was still visited within living memory.[13]
  • Sydney rock engravings (Australia) – Contains around 1,500 pieces of Aboriginal rock art, which date from 5,000 to 7,000 years old.[14]


The Venus of Monruz is an 11,000 year-old stylized pendant, 18 mm in height.
Rock carving of Pelorovis antiquus at Tassili n'Ajjer, southern Algeria
Mesolithic Europe
  • 11 kya Les Combarelles (France) – two galleries showcase more than 600 engravings. The more-than-11,000-year-old artwork portrays such subjects as reindeer drinking water from the river that flows through the cave, cave bears, cave lions, mammoths, and various symbols.[15]
  • 10-8 kya Magura Cave (Bulgaria) - the prehistoric wall paintings of Magura have great resemblance with those of the Grotta dei Cervi in Italy, which are of exceptional expression and artistic depth and are considered the most significant works of art of the European Post-Paleolithic era.[16] In 1984 the site was induced into UNESCO's tentative list of World Heritage.[17]
  • 7 kya Adam of Govrlevo (North Macedonia), or "Adam of Macedonia". At more than 7,000 years old, the sculpture is the oldest artifact found in the Republic of North Macedonia. The artist depicts a sitting male body, and shows details of his spine, ribs, navel, and phallus. The piece is now exhibited in the Skopje City Museum.
Epipalaeolithic Near East
Mesolithic Asia
North African Mesolithic
  • Saharan rock art – there are over three thousand known sites where artists carved or painted on the natural rocks of the central Sahara desert.
  • Tadrart Acacus (Libya) – rock art with engravings of humans and flora and fauna, which date from 12,000 BCE to 100 CE.
  • Tassili n'Ajjer (Algeria) – over 15,000 pastoral and natural engravings; the earliest rock art is from around 12,000 years before present, with most dating to the 9th and 10th millennia BP or younger.
  • Cueva de las Manos (Cave of Hands) (Argentina) – a series of caves exhibiting hundreds of outlines of human hands, hunting scenes, and animals painted 13,000 to 9,000 years ago.[25]
  • Bird stones (5,000 to 2,500 years old) are portable bird-shaped stone sculptures created by generations of North American sculptors.
  • Toquepala Caves (Peru) – "Abrigo del Diablo" and the other caves contain at least 50 noted pieces. The artists used paint made from hematite, and painted in seven colors with red being dominant.[26][27][28]


Near East and North Africa
Neolithic Europe
Westray Wife, Orkney, Scotland
Neolithic China

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kind, C.-J.; Ebinger-Rist, N.; Wolf, S.; Beutelspacher, T.; Wehrberger, K. (2014). "The Smile of the Lion Man. Recent Excavations in Stadel Cave (Baden-Württemberg, south-western Germany) and the Restoration of the Famous Upper Palaeolithic Figurine" (PDF). Quartär. 61: 129–145.
  2. ^ Pike, A. W. G. (2012). "U-Series Dating of Paleolithic Art in 11 Caves in Spain". Science. 336 (6087): 1409–1413. Bibcode:2012Sci...336.1409P. doi:10.1126/science.1219957. PMID 22700921. S2CID 7807664.
  3. ^ "Oldest confirmed cave art is a single red dot" by Michael Marshall, New Scientist, 23 June 2012, pp. 10-11.
  4. ^ Clottes, Jean (2003). Chauvet Cave: The Art of Earliest Times. Paul G. Bahn (translator). University of Utah Press. ISBN 0-87480-758-1. Translation of La Grotte Chauvet, l'art des origins, Éditions du Seuil, 2001, p. 214.
  5. ^ Amos, Jonathan (June 14, 2012). "Red dot becomes 'oldest cave art'". BBC News. Archived from the original on 15 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012. One motif – a faint red dot – is said to be more than 40,000 years old.
  6. ^ Insoll, Timothy (2017). The Oxford Handbook of Prehistoric Figurines. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199675616.
  7. ^ "Collections", National Museum of Prehistory Archived 2015-04-30 at the Wayback Machine in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil (in French)
  8. ^ "Horse engraving on bone". British Museum. 2011. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012.
  9. ^ British Museum; Ann Sieveking (1987). A catalogue of palaeolithic art in the British Museum. Published for the Trustees of the British Museum by British Museum Publications. pp. 112–. ISBN 978-0-7141-1376-0. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  10. ^ Donaldson, Mike The Gwion or Bradshaw art style of Australia's Kimberley region is undoubtedly among the earliest rock art in the country –but is it Pleistocene? Archived 2016-03-05 at the Wayback Machine (free download) L'art pléistocène en Australie (Pré-Actes) IFRAO Congress, September 2010 p. 4.
  11. ^ Masters, Emma (4 October 2009). "Aboriginal rock art collection 'world's largest'". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).
  12. ^ Michel Geneste, Jean (2010). "Earliest Evidence for Ground-Edge Axes: 35,400±410 cal BP from Jawoyn Country, Arnhem Land". Australian Archaeology. 71 (December): 66–69. doi:10.1080/03122417.2010.11689385. hdl:10289/5067. S2CID 134077798.
  13. ^ Robert Gunn, Bruno David, Jean-Jacques Delannoy and Margaret Katherine, "The past 500 years of rock art at Nawarla Gabarnmang, central-western Arnhem Land" in: Bruno David, Paul S.C. Taçon, Jean-Jacques Delannoy, Jean-Michel Geneste (eds.), The Archaeology of Rock Art in Western Arnhem Land, Australia (2017), pp. 303–328.
  14. ^ "Aboriginal heritage". Office of Environment and Heritage. Government of New South Wales. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  15. ^ "Les Combarelles – Grotte – Eyzies-de-Tayac – Périgord – Dordogne" (in French). Hominidé December 2007. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  16. ^ "Bulgarian rock art: the Magura Cave paintings". TRACCE Online Rock Art Bulletin. November 19, 2014. Retrieved 21 Nov 2014.
  17. ^ "The Magoura Cave with drawings from the bronze age". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  18. ^ A History of the World -7,, accessed July 2010
  19. ^ "Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka". World Heritage Site. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
  20. ^ Mathpal, Yashodhar (1984). Prehistoric Painting Of Bhimbetka. Abhinav Publications. p. 220. ISBN 9788170171935.
  21. ^ Tiwari, Shiv Kumar (2000). Riddles of Indian Rockshelter Paintings. Sarup & Sons. p. 189. ISBN 9788176250863.
  22. ^ Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka (PDF). UNESCO. 2003. p. 16.
  23. ^ Mithen, Steven (2011). After the Ice: A Global Human History, 20,000 - 5000 BC. Orion. p. 524. ISBN 9781780222592.
  24. ^ Javid, Ali; Jāvīd, ʻAlī; Javeed, Tabassum (2008). World Heritage Monuments and Related Edifices in India. Algora Publishing. p. 19. ISBN 9780875864846.
  25. ^ Cueva de las Manos at the UNESCO:
  26. ^ South American Handbook. Trade and Travel Publications Limited. 1976.
  27. ^ David S. Whitley (2001). Handbook of Rock Art Research. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 712–. ISBN 978-0-7425-0256-7.
  28. ^ Aldenderfer 1998, pp. 56–57.