Researchers have reportedly discovered what could be the oldest evidence of graphic imagery in a cave in southwest France.
The New York Times reports a drawing of a female vulva, thought to be 37,000 years old, has been found on the collapsed roof of a rock shelter at the Abri Castanet site in the Vézère River valley.
The area was being researched by a team including New York University anthropologist Randall White who said the discovery was "the oldest evidence of any kind of graphic imagery.”
Dr White said the drawing was illustrated by circles with small slits on one side.
“You see this again and again and again,” Dr. White said. There are also very simple images, in profile, of animals, including horses and lionlike big cats, he told the New York Times.
Dr White said humans at the time lived in the shelters and often used ivory beads and other ornamentation to decorate their bodies.
Dr White said his team report their findings in the current issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team home that by deciphering more of the art they can understand the culture of the people better.
“What we hope to be able to do is map the distribution of images on the ceiling and all of the activities of the time,” he said.
“There may be a relationship between the art on the ceiling and their lives.”