The Oldest Archeological Remains Found in Caves

a cave bear in Chauvet Cave.

Prehistoric archaeology or prehistory deals with the time before history. History is considered to be the time of written records, so prehistory is before that. Since writing developed at different times in different cultures on earth, the end of prehistory depends on where you are. In Europe, the beginning of the Bronze Age is usually regarded as the end of prehistory, i.e. between 1,000 and 500 years before Christ. The period begins with the first stone tools about 2.5 million years ago in Africa, but much later on the other continents.

The older the remains, the greater the risk that they have been partially or completely destroyed by environmental influences. Thus, the number and state of preservation deteriorates with increasing age. This makes the few finds all the more valuable. And because remains in caves were not exposed to weathering or the building projects of later generations, they are particularly well-preserved.

Stone tools are the best preserved for obvious reasons. The colour pigments of cave paintings, as well as bones, teeth and ivory, place second. Much rarer are leather, cloth, wood, ropes and other items made of plant fibres.

Age Cave Explanation
32.000 CaveGrotte Chauvet contains the oldest paintings of the world, they are between 32,000 and 23,000 years old.
40.000 CaveVogelherdhöhlen (Vogelherd Caves) in Germany This is where the oldest known artworks of the world were found. There are ivory carvings of mammoth, ren, wild horse, bison, bear, panther und cave lion. The figurines were dated by ArchaeologyC14-dating to nearly 40.000 years before present.
35.000 CaveGeißenklösterle in Germany The Geißenklösterle is a shelter, the remains of a collapsed cave, were numerous archaeological findings were made. Most important is the adorant a very small ivory plate with an humanoid engraving on one side. This is the oldest known picture of a human dated to be 35,000 years old.
19.000 ShowcaveGrotte de Lascaux Contains the oldest comic strip of the world, 19,000 years old. The story of the depicted hunts goes from the left to the right, until the prey is captured. These pictures were obviously used to tell stories.
73.000 Blombos Cave, South Africa In 2011 a piece of rock with some pigents was found. It is not exactly cave art, but it is definitely an intentionally made drawing, a symbol resembling the # character scribbled with colour (a crayon) on rock. As it is 73,000 years old, twice as old as any other known human made painting it is currently the oldest known cave "painting".
46,000 ShowcaveBacho kiro, Bulgaria A tooth and six bone fragments plus numerous stone tools were found and dated to be between 46,000 and 44,000 years old.