Potentially the earliest stone age art consists of hand- and footprints on stone, and was found in investigations between 2018 and 2020.
From the September 2021 Science Bulletin abstract covering the find:
“At Quesang on the Tibetan Plateau we report a series of hand and foot impressions that appear to have been intentionally placed on the surface of a unit of soft travertine. The travertine was deposited by water from a hot spring which is now inactive and as the travertine lithified it preserved the traces. On the basis of the sizes of the hand and foot traces we suggest that two track-makers were involved and were likely children. We interpret this event as a deliberate artistic act that created a work of parietal art. The travertine unit on which the traces were imprinted dates to between ∼169 and 226 ka BP.”
Below is a contour map from the article, showing the prints on the rock surface:
Fascinating. I’m sure there are still many open questions, like intentionality (if such a thing is even possible for prints left hundreds of thousands of years ago) and the identity of the creator(s). (The discovery team posits they may have been children, potentially at play.)
It’s just… Do these prints remind anyone else of of how Gollum moves?
Found via Colossal.
Image via Zhang, David D., et al. “Earliest parietal art: Hominin hand and foot traces from the middle Pleistocene of Tibet.” Science Bulletin September 10, 2021