• Brandon Glover

Earliest known abstract art identified

In South Africa in 2011, excavators unearthed a red rock with a cross-hatched pattern on it which was initially thought to be an ordinary rock but which scientists now believe to be the earliest discovered human drawing. According to USA Today, “The 73,000-year-old drawing predates previously discovered abstract and figurative drawings elsewhere by at least 30,000 years.” The drawing shows humans were capable of abstract thought more than 30,000 years before we thought.

“The flake was found in Blombos Cave, east of Cape Town on the southern coast of South Africa,” according to CNN. Many other ancient objects have been found near this spot, as well.

The drawing was made with an ochre pencil on a small rock fragment called a flake. USA Today reports that “scientists believe that a human intentionally and deliberately drew the lines.” According to CNN, “some lines even suggest that the object was turned while the drawing was being done.”

Based on experiments attempting to recreate the pattern, (which looks sort of like a hash-tag), the results concluded that the pencil's tip was most likely close to one-to-three millimeters in width. “That the ancient artist chose to sketch with red ochre isn’t a surprise,” according to USA Today.

CNN reports that “the abrupt halt of the lines on the flake's edge suggest that the pattern was part of something on a larger surface. The original drawing may have been more complex.” The rock is also thought to originally have been part of an early grindstone.