Cave paintings and rock engravings represent the earliest human art forms, and examples can be found around the world going back over 50,000 years. The earliest known abstract art was discovered in the Blombos Cave, an archaeological site located 300km east of Cape Town in South Africa. Stones engraved with a grid or cross-hatch patterns discovered were dated to about 70,000 years BC (and attributed to homo sapiens).

blombosalvarezsm Indigenous Rock Art
Source: Don’s Maps (

The oldest known cave paintings are red hand stencils in the Maltravieso cave in Spain. Discovered in 1951, the cave has traces of human occupation from the Middle Paleolithic times and the cave art includes notably 71 hand stencils. Dated to at least 64,000 years old, these hand stencils were made by Neanderthal man.

neandart Indigenous Rock Art
Source: The Scientist

The world’s oldest-known figurative artwork discovered to date are three wild pigs painted in a limestone cave (Leang Tedongnge) on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, which have been dated to at least 45,000 years BC. The painting appears to depict a group of Sulawesi warty pigs, two of which appear to be fighting; two images are badly damaged, but the third, possibly watching the drama unfold, remains in near-pristine condition (Source: Artnet).

Prior to this discovery in 2021, a nearby cave (Leang Bulu’Sipong) discovered by the same team a few years earlier has arwork dated as being approximately 43,900 years old. A 4.5m wide panel depicts six fleeing mammals (two Sulawesi warty pigs and four dwarf buffaloes, or as anoas) who are pursued by human-like figures wielding long swords or ropes.

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Source: The Guardian (11 Dec 2019)

These Indonesian cave paintings pre-dated cave art in France and Spain, which had until recently been considered the earliest examples of human artwork. Nearly 350 caves have now been discovered in France and Spain that contain art from prehistoric times. The earliest known European figurative cave paintings are those in the Chauvet Cave in France, dated to earlier than 30,000 BCE (Upper Paleolithic period).

chauvetpansm Indigenous Rock Art

Aboriginal rock art is the oldest form of indigenous Australian art, with the earliest examples discovered at Gabarnmung in Arnhem Land dating back around 28,000 years. Located on the lands of the Jawoyn Aboriginal people in south-west Arnhem Land, Gabarnmung was “discovered” by non-Jawoyn people in 2006 and is one of the largest rock art sites in the world. (Other cave paintings on the Arnhem Land plateau depict megafauna which are thought to have been extinct for over 40,000 years, which would make this one of the oldest known paintings in the world – but the proposed age is dependent on the estimate of the extinction date, which is only considered an estimate.)

Gabarnmung rock art tour Indigenous Rock Art
Source: Venture North Safaris

Some of the publicly-accessible indigenous rock art and petroglyph sites found the world include:

Swintons Cave handprintsAUSTRALIA
It is thought that there are over 100,000 rock art sites in Australia, dating from 28,000 years ago (Gabarnmung, above) to sites that depict post-European colonisation scenes. There are quite significant differences in styles between Aboriginal language groups. View sites around Sydney.
MG 7346 LR Indigenous Rock ArtNORWAY
More rock art made by hunter-gatherers is found in Alta than anywhere else in northern Europe, suggesting that for thousands of years Alta was an important meeting place far north of the Arctic Circle. Over 6000 rock carvings have been documented across 45 sites around the Alta Fjord, going back to 4000-5000 BC. 

Petroglyphts at The Chimneys (Big Bend National Park)

There are thousands of rock art sites across the US, with the the most prominent region being the American Southwest. Ancient symbols on boulders on a dried lake in Nevada are the oldest confirmed rock carvings in North America, having been dated to at least 10,500 years old, and perhaps as much as 14,800 years old.

Indigenous Sites by National Park

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Over a hundred Aboriginal sites have been recorded in the Hornsby region, with many of these in the Berowra Valley National Park and around the suburb of Berowra.
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There are over 350 Aboriginal engraving and sites recorded in the Central Coast region, many of these in the Brisbane Water National Park.
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Yengo National Park was an important spiritual and cultural place for the Darkinjung and Wonnarua People for thousands of years, and 640 Aboriginal cultural sites are recorded in the park and nearby areas.
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Located to the north-west of Sydney, just south of the Dharug and Yengo National Parks, Maroota has a high concentration of (known) Aboriginal sites. Many more Aboriginal heritage sites are located in the Marramarra National Park. The original inhabitants of the area were the Darug people.
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Many sites Aboriginal engraving sites across the inner suburbs of Sydney have been destroyed or are very weatheredl. The sites which remain are isolated from their natural environment.
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Over 40 sites have been recorded within the park; many were located along the river bank and were flooded by the building of the weir in 1938.