Pointillism Was Actually Invented 38,000 Years Ago

Vintage |

Pointillism is an artistic technique in which larger images are composed of smaller groupings of dots. From a distance, your eye is met with detailed images of people, buildings, trees and other features. But up close, the macro image dissolves into unconnected micro details. It was first developed in the 19th century. Or so we thought. A new archaeological find proves that pointillism was actually one of humanity's very first artistic techniques, dating back thousands of years.

A team of archaeologists have discovered sixteen pieces of art-bearing limestone left in a French cave that are rewriting our understanding of art history. The site, in France's Vézère Valley, was the location of a 1927 excavation that also turned up many significant art artifacts. The modern expedition uncovered many new pieces, as well as pieces set aside by the original explorers. The limestone features pointillist-style images of "aurochs," an extinct species of wild cattle.

The art was made by the Aurignacians, the oldest known human culture in Europe. It has been dated to 38,000 years ago, making it some of the earliest known graphic imagery ever found in Europe. They show aurochs and other figures, illustrated with groupings of dots.

Pointillism was made famous by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Signac, Georges Seurat and Roy Lichtenstein. But the technique is apparently as old as we are.

Yahoo News UK

The excavation was led by a New York University anthropologist named Randall White, who said of the findings, "We're quite familiar with the techniques of these modern artists. But now we can confirm this form of image-making was already being practiced by Europe's earliest human culture, the Aurignacian."

The Aurignacian culture dates roughly between 43,000 and 38,000 years ago. They had a diverse range of hand tools available to them, which allowed them to make engravings of the sort found in France.

The Vézère Valley limestone engravings are not the only pieces of evidence to suggest that pointillism was a common practice among the Aurignacian. A pointillist-style rhinoceros was found on a cave wall in Grotte Chauvet, that was created by painting dots on a hand and then pressing the hand to the wall.

White and his team have been working for a decade to expand our understanding of Upper Paleolithic graphic imagery, as practiced in France. They have increased the known pieces of Aurignacian art by 40% in the region.

Maybe next they'll discover a cubist mastodon. We can only hope.

Share On Facebook


Matt lives in Southern California. He is interested in politics, history, literature and the natural world.