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The oldest known drawing techniques known to mankind

Today was an odd day of researching for my humble art blog.

What started off as exploring what was the oldest known piece of art created by man, turned into.. well… what are the earliest known painting / drawing techniques. This was literally the most fascinating research journey I have undertaken. To be honest with you, there are hundreds of articles wafting about the internet claiming to have found ‘the earliest known piece of art’.

Whilst our advancing technologies in the archeology department can confirm the approximate date of when these cave paintings were made, let’s just say, unless you were there, its speculation and quantified guesses.

But one thing became bleedingly obvious, our Neanderthal ancestors with their primitive brains, used the same old drawing techniques that we used. Some of these include zig zag, cross hatch and stippling (but are not limited to because who am I to say? I’m sure there is another unfound cave hiding another ancient painting out there just waiting for our beady little eyes to assess)

Yes my friend, these Neanderthals, whilst they might not have yet discovered the Apple iPhone, identified their own group of ‘superfoods’ or experienced the luxury of shopping with the click of a button from the comfort of their cave, had, in fact discovered drawing techniques that we still use today.

So, without further delay, I present to you...


1. STENCILING The Sulawesi cave art found in Sulawesi, Indonesia, used hand stenciling dating back to at least 37,900 BC.


2. ROCK ART This Neanderthal cave, situated in southwest France, is famous for “cupule,” a primitive form of rock art that existed on the populated continent and was practiced around the three eras of the Stone Age. It is one of the oldest prehistoric forms of art in Europe. The extinction of Neanderthal man around 40,000 BC suggests that this art can be dated back to between 70,000 and 40,000 BC.

3. CROSS HATCHING “This is first known drawing in human history,” said Francesco d’Errico, a researcher on the team at the University of Bordeaux, which interestingly also shows us the first evidence of cross hatching used in art. After 7 years of rigorous testing, archeologists claim this cross hatched piece of art was created with an orchre crayon about 73,000 years ago. Let's assume that crayon was made from natural raw materials and perhaps not a spare crayon from the old Crayola box?

Ancient people used ochre crayon to draw on this rock. Credit: Henshilwood et al., Nature 2018
Ancient people used ochre crayon to draw on this rock. Credit: Henshilwood et al., Nature 2018

4. STIPLING Discovered in Diepkloof Rock Shelter in Western Cape, South Africa, the Diepkloof eggshell engravings are another set of marvelous cave engravings dating to approximately 60,000 BC. They were found carved onto an ostrich eggshell using abstract art techniques such as crosshatching and geometric motifs.

- I'd just like to add a side note, I did consider adding in our beautiful indigenous Australian art as the earliest known stipling / dot techniques, however the example here in this blog is older than what I had researched so far. I also believe that Aboriginal Cutlure, being native to my country, deserves it's own blog post in it's own right to truly highlight their rich artistic culture. So, please, watch this space, because, I will be doing a blog article on Indigenous Art. xo

5. ZIG ZAG We have been zigging and zagging for roughly about 77000 years. The earliest known patterns were found on an ochre block from the Blombos caves, South Africa (Henshilwood et al. 2002).

ZIG ZAG ART PHOTO CREDIT: (Henshilwood et al. 2002)
PHOTO CREDIT: (Henshilwood et al. 2002)

6. OUTLINE DRAWINGS Our 2021 trend of minimalist line drawings are nothing new because our prehistoric friends were on point with the art technique. This outlined drawing is the earliest known line drawing and dates back to around 15000 - 16000 BP. (Huyge & Claes, 2008).


In conclusion, If Neanderthals could draw, so can you. Art really is about observing the world around us and expressing that view through creative expression - no matter your skills set, or should I rather say you tool kit! Because although we can not 100% be sure of when these were made down to the day, what I could speculate with absolute certainty, they did not have the latest Daler-Rowney cold cotton press watercolour paper or the latest set of Derwents.

So if you want to learn how to draw, without the fuss, just skip on over to my Drawing guide book HERE . It will show you in the easiest step by step format how to draw beautoful flowers. Its so easy you could learn to draw with your eyes shut!

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