From heirlooms to antique shops to museums, many Americans share an obsession with the extremely old. This includes both man-made artifacts, such as a 130,000-year-old piece of jewelry, and natural relics, such as the fossilized remains of a Nyasasaurus found in Africa, believed to be the oldest dinosaur fossil. on earth.
When history books aren’t enough, these relics give us tangible insight into the style, materials, and needs of another era.
Early cave paintings, such as those at El Castillo, Spain, 40,000 years old, lack some of the perspective techniques and drawing tools developed later.
In other cases, humanity’s earliest attempts at art, photography, architecture, and music can be beautiful in their simplicity or awe-inspiring in their ingenuity. The oldest known photograph, “View from the window of Gras” by Nicéphore Niépce, is not a beautiful landscape or a poignant look at a subject. But capturing the first image paved the way for whole new ways for people to express themselves.
Of course, many of the oldest objects on the planet do not invite any artistic analysis because they existed long before mankind was around or because they were created naturally. This includes the oldest tree, over 5,000 years old, and the oldest known rock, which is slightly older than that – around 229 million 995,000 years old.
24/7 Tempo reviewed scientific journals, document collection organizations, newspapers and other sources to identify the oldest known element in each of a number of categories. Often there is less than a historical or scientific consensus as to which is the oldest element. These aren’t necessarily the first thing made in a particular category, but rather the oldest surviving version.
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