List of Stone Age art

This is a descriptive list of Stone Age art, the period of prehistory characterised by the widespread use of stone tools. This page 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 we now call 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


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

  • 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.[3][4] It is 5,000-10,000 years older than caves so-far found in France.[5][6]
    • 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. 3321 kya. The Solutrean (c. 2217 kya) may or may not be included as the final phase of the Gravettian.

Epigravettian, Magdalenian

  • Cave art
    • Chufin cave (Spain) – small cave with engravings, stick figures, and artwork schematically portraying red deer, goats and cattle.
    • Côa Valley (Portugal) – artists engraved thousands of drawings of horses and other animal, human and abstract figures in open-air artwork completed 22,000 to 10,000 years ago.
    • Font-de-Gaume in south-west France contains over 200 polychrome paintings and engravings from artists who worked over 17,000 years ago. The cave's most famous painting is a frieze of five bison, although renditions of many other animals, including wolves, are featured.
    • Kapova cave in southern Ural Mountains (Russia) – presently 173 monochromatic ochre rock paintings and charcoal drawings or their traces are documented, presenting Pleistocene animals and abstract geometric motives. They are about 18,000 – 16,000 years old, from Late Solutrean to Middle Magdalenian.
    • La Marche (France) – due to the style the legitimacy of the cave paintings here are in dispute.
    • Roc-aux-Sorciers (France) – a rock shelter famous for its 14,000-year-old relief wall carvings.
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.


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.

  • Bradshaw 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.[11] 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.[12][13] The site also includes panels of recent paintings, radiocarbon dated to between AD 14331631 and AD 16581952 (calibrated 95% CI), consistent with the reports that the cave was still visited within living memory.[14]
  • Sydney rock engravings (Australia) – Contains around 1,500 pieces of Aboriginal rock art, which date from 5,000 to 7,000 years old.[15]


Mesolithic Europe
Epipalaeolithic Near East
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.
  • 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.[18][19][20]


Near East and North Africa
Neolithic Europe
Neolithic China

See also


  1. Martin Bailey Ice Age Lion Man is world's earliest figurative sculpture The Art Newspaper, Jan 31, 2013, accessed Feb 01, 2013
  2. ""It must be a woman" – The female depictions from Hohle Fels date to 40,000 years ago..." Universität Tübingen. July 22, 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-10-11. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
  3. Pike, A. W. G. (2012). "U-Series Dating of Paleolithic Art in 11 Caves in Spain". Science. 336: 1409–1413. doi:10.1126/science.1219957.
  4. "Oldest confirmed cave art is a single red dot" by Michael Marshall, New Scientist, 23 June 2012, pp. 10-11.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Insoll, Timothy (2017). The Oxford Handbook of Prehistoric Figurines. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199675616.
  8. "Collections", National Museum of Prehistory Archived 2015-04-30 at the Wayback Machine in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil (in French)
  9. "Horse engraving on bone". British Museum. 2011. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Masters, Emma (4 October 2009). "Aboriginal rock art collection 'world's largest'". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).
  13. 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.
  14. 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. 303328.
  15. "Aboriginal heritage". Office of Environment and Heritage. Government of New South Wales. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  16. "Les Combarelles – Grotte – Eyzies-de-Tayac – Périgord – Dordogne" (in French). Hominidé December 2007. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  17. A History of the World -7,, accessed July 2010
  18. South American Handbook. Trade and Travel Publications Limited. 1976.
  19. David S. Whitley (2001). Handbook of Rock Art Research. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 712–. ISBN 978-0-7425-0256-7.
  20. Aldenderfer 1998, pp. 56–57.
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