Earliest representations and art

We know artifacts like stone "knife" tools of Homo erectus may date back several million years. Yet when did humans create their first representational objects -- something like moving from Piaget's sensorimotor stage to a figurative or symbolic one?

See perhaps the earliest, ~30 kya, representational objects here. Or maybe 30K earlier designs on eggs are a symbolic code?

see old egg design images

Symbolism? Fragments of engraved ostrich eggshells from the Diepkloof Rock Shelter, South Africa, dated to 60,000 years ago.

Clearly artwork like the examples below are representations; what about earlier. Some evidence suggests even Neanderthal's and homo sapiens may have had some even earlier representations dating back to 70,000 years ago. But this seems very much conjecture at this point.

D'Errico, F., Henshilwood, C., & Nilssen, P. (2001). An engraved bone fragment from ca. 75 kyr Middle Stone Age levels at Blombos Cave, South Africa: implications for the origin of symbolism and language. Antiquity, 75, 309-318.

A DRAWING discovered by a potholer on the wall of a cave in the west of France appears to be the oldest known portrait of a human face.
The 27,000-year-old work was found by a local pensioner, Gérard Jourdy, in the Vilhonneur grotto near Angoulême (near Bordeaux.).
Drawn with calcium carbonate, and using the bumps in the wall to give form to the face, it features two horizontal lines for the eyes, another for the mouth and a vertical line for the nose. “The portrait of this face is unique,” said Jean Airvaux, a researcher at the French Directorate of Cultural Affairs. “We have other drawings, but they are more recent. Here, it could be the oldest representation of a human face.” (Or an early projective test!, JL)

Adam Sage, June 05, 2006, The Times

Cave paintings 11,000 years later than the above face.

Wall paintings even later.

French archaeologists working in Syria this summer found what they contend are the earliest known wall paintings, based on radiocarbon dates of about 11,000 B.C.E. from a mud-brick building at the early farming site of Dja'de el-Mughara. The structure, which has about 4 square meters of geometric paintings on its interior walls, was roughly shaped like a bull's head and apparently was used for ritual activities, says excavation director Eric Coqueugniot of the French research agency CNRS in Lyons.

(Science, v.314, 2006)

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