Ancient Art Archive@ancientartarchive

We help explore and preserve humanity's oldest stories. Follow the link for more information.

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This red ochre block uncovered in Blombos Cave by Chris Henshilwood is humanity's oldest known carved object. It is about the size of my palm and is somewhat unassuming. However, it is 77,000 years old! That is over 3000 human generations. It is so old that most people in the world are likely related to the person who carved it.

Iziko South African Museum

We built a virtual cave. It's part of a proof of concept to see if we can make an immersive 3D environment and deliver it via html. We are close. Follow the link in the profile and check out 'news' for more info.


Snake mud glyph, Jackson County Alabama
The desire to mark our passage, to describe our world view in images is a universal human instinct. So not surprisingly we find ancient art everywhere. New ways of looking are revealing ancient art in surprising places. These shallow mud glyphs are on the ceiling of a low cave in Alabama. The figure on the lower left is a rattle snake. It is large, measuring over 3 feet across. The engravings are in a thin lime mud that coats the cave ceiling. They are so shallow as to be almost invisible. This image is pulled from a 3D model that we are building of the entire engraved ceiling. It is a huge project that will incorporate thousands of images into a single model. #photogrammetry


Grand Canyon Esplanade Polychrome Panel in Mojave County, Arizona
It's been a year since I last saw this wonderful panel. I am just now getting to the images I shot to build a 3D model of it. Such a wonderful and mysterious place.


The Procession Panel is one of the iconic artworks in The Bears Ears National Monument.


The Great Gallery of Horseshoe Canyon Utah.
I'm rendering some video from a 3D model that I made this spring. It is for a public talk in Sewanee on Thursday October 5 at noon in Cravens Hall.
The Great Gallery is a fabulous site. It's 208 feet long. The largest figure is over 7 feet tall. The images themselves are very detailed and complex. And we seem to be looking at at least 3 painting and carving periods. I've gone there a lot over the years and each time I walk away with something new. #utah #video #autodeskmaya


The Great Hunt Panel in Nine Mile Canyon, Utah. Despite its name, Nine Mile Canyon is a 40 mile long, 10,000 year old drive through art gallery. There are thousands of individual pieces of art within the canyon. #utah #ninemilecanyon


Runestone, Sweden. Carved about 1100 Runestones were created in the memory of the dead. This one was a gift from the king of Sweden to the Ashmolean Museum.

Ashmolean Museum

Four Horses
36,000 year old cave paintings, France
I am so excited to be speaking about the Ancient Art Archive at Social Media Week tomorrow morning in London and then at Said Business School in Oxford on the 13th. Four Horses is part of the Chauvet portfolio I have produced to support the project. 6 of the prints will be available at the Oxford lecture. Or a link to the portfolio gallery is in the profile link. All proceeds from the print sale go to support the Ancient Art Archive work. #chauvet


An engraved 9th century bronze axe in the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg.


An anthropomorphic figure in Tito Bastillo cave. Anthropomorphic images are rare in paleolithic cave art. I can only think of a few examples and they are figures in transition. This human figure seems to be turning into an animal, or maybe the other way around.  #spain


A charcoal horse in Tito Bustillo cave, Spain. It is simple, beautiful and over 14,000 years old. #spain


Barrier Canyon Style Petroglyphs Emery County, Utah.
Sometimes Ancient Art is so faded by the elements that it is hard to see. In that case we often run a false color analysis program called DStretch to see what the eye can't. Results are often surprising. To read more about how the program works follow the link in this profile and navigate to the "news" section. #dstretch #utah


Is it a dog? A baboon? A demon? @salvarezphoto recorded this quadruped in an art cave in Tennessee while on assignment for @natgeo There are a number of quadrupeds in Southern Cave iconography extending from Kentucky to the Southern Cumberland Plateau. But what do they represent? That might not be a question that is answerable.

#cave #tennessee #quadruped


Grabbing a few winks after a long night shooting timelapse in the Bears Ears earlier this year. Our newest National Monument is a cultural treasure. It holds over 100,000 archeological sites. #keepitpublic #bearsears

Bluff, Utah

It might look lime "The Scream" but it is a stylized catfish on a bluff in Madison County Alabama. There are a series of them along the bluff line. The images grow more and more abstract as you head West. #rockart #alabama
Photo by @salvarezphoto


15,000 year old charcoal drawing in a Spanish cave. The grace of this drawing always amazes me. Some paleolithic art is absolutely minimalistic. This image is part of a portfolio I am printing for gallery shows coming up in Oxford and London in September. Follow the link in the profile to go to the Ancient Art Archive support page.


Anthropomorphic figure, Marshal County Alabama photo by @salvarezphoto
The urge to record our passage is a basic human instinct. We find rock art everywhere even in places that you might not expect it like the American South. #rockart #alabama


An eland detailed in a San rock art panel at Gamepass shelter in the Drakensburg Mountains, South Africa. The San have a rock art tradition that continues well into historic times. Rock shelters of the Drakensberg Mountains contain fantastic works of art. 
#san #southafrica #drakensburg


Paleolithic engravings in one of the hundreds of art caves in Austurias. There are no "hard" dates on these engravings but they are certainly between 14,000 And 24,000 years old.


Springtime outside Caces in Austurias, Spain. Asturias is full of paleolithic art sites. It also happens to be staggeringly beautiful. #spain

Principality of Asturias

A partial negative hand print in El Castillo cave, Spain. There isn't a date on this particular print but other red ochre symbols in that cave are more than 40,000 years old. #spain #paleolithic


A short video clip pulled from a 3D model of Chauvet Cave, France. These charcoal drawings are 36,000 years old. Standing in front of them is the most incredible experience. You can practically hear that ice age artist speaking to you. Wanting to share that feeling of communication led me to found the Ancient Art Archive. We explore and preserve humanity's oldest stories. Follow the profile link to join the Archive.


Paleolithic abstract symbols in El Castillo Cave, Spain.  Images of animals grab our attention, but most ancient symbols are not representational. The most widely distributed image has to be the dot, followed by the circle, then maybe the cross and box. Handprints -which also grab our attention because they are so personal- come in fairly far down the line in terms of numbers. These lines of dots and boxes likely meant something to the people who painted them 20 or 30,000 years ago, but that meaning is lost to time.

#spain #paleolithic

Cantabria, Spain

Ancient Art Archive founder @salvarezphoto recording 14,000 year old drawings inside a cave in Cantabria, Spain.

Cantabria, Spain

Sometimes ice age art is breathtakingly simple and mysterious.
15,000 years ago someone drew a series of Reindeer inside Las Chimeneas cave, Spain. All of them are rendered in this minimalist style. So delicate and evocative. None of the figures has a mouth...
#spain #paleolithic


Sego Canyon Utah
Last night I told the story of the first time I saw Sego Canyon Utah. The story told by these paintings on rock walls in Utah was so powerful, so scary that I had to run away from them. So glad that now, 30 years later, I get to help explore and preserve the human story as told on rock and cave walls around the world. I want to thank @donnajmintz for hosting and @artsatlanta for sponsoring a wonderful event last night. Please follow the link in my (@salvarezphoto) or @ancientartarchive profiles to join the archive and help preserve these stories.


An esplanade polychrome panel in Mojave County, Arizona.
The few esplanade polychrome panels are often confused with Aboriginal Australian works. Their "x-ray" style reminds me of work found on the other side of the world. Although the two artworks are certainly unrelated. #rockart


"What do these images mean?" That is the question people most ask. What do they mean? The only honest answer is "we don't know." These images are likely 2,000 years old or older and their meaning may well be lost to time. But the delicate paintings on the roof of an alcove in the San Rafael Swell are clearly a story. Their ambiguous meaning adds to the mystery. It increases our curiosity and maybe gives the images even more power.

What does it mean? We don't know, but I do know that images, stories as beautiful as these are worth preserving and sharing. Join the Ancient Art Archive -there is a link in the profile- to help. With your help we can provide immersive VR experience of this art.



Pictographs in Marshal County, Alabama. This video is pulled from a 3D model we are working on of this major rock art site in Alabama. The model allows for precise measurement an observation of the art. It will also allow us -eventually- to deliver an immersive 3 Dimensional experience of being in front of this artwork. #alabama #3d