Discover 30,000 years of African Rock Art

The British Museum has placed scans of over 25,000 examples online. In addition to their own extensive collection of African art they have included thousands from the Trust for African Rock Art.


Hundreds of pieces are described and the science of dating and interpretation of these relics are presented in detail.

Africa’s rock art is as diverse as the continent itself. In 2013, the African rock art image project team began cataloguing around 25,000 digital photographs of rock art from across Africa – originally from the Trust for African Rock Art (TARA).

Combining a wide range of research from the British Museum, TARA and colleagues in Africa, the project is cataloguing and digitally preserving African rock art, ensuring global open access well into the future.

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The oldest scientifically-dated rock art in Africa dates from around 26,000-28,000 years ago and is found in Namibia.


Explore the earliest known manufactured works such as these incised ostrich shells, some dating to 100,000 years ago and their origins.


The first examples of what we might term ‘art’ in Africa, dating from between 100,000–60,000 years ago, emerge in two very distinct forms: personal adornment in the form of perforated seashells suspended on twine, and incised and engraved stone, ochre and ostrich eggshell. Despite some sites being 8,000km and 40,000 years apart, an intriguing feature of the earliest art is that these first forays appear remarkably similar. It is worth noting here that the term ‘art’ in this context is highly problematic, in that we cannot assume that humans living 100,000 years ago, or even 10,000 years ago, had a concept of art in the same way that we do, particularly in the modern Western sense. However, it remains a useful umbrella term for our purposes here.

Up to the Horse Period (3,000 – 2,000 years ago)


and the Camel Period (2,000 years ago to the present)


While still in development, there is enough available now so far to explore for hours (as I have).

About Stan Flouride

THIS BLOG IS ALWAYS AD-FREE I make stuff and do things.
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