Archaeologists in central China have found a unique figurine of a tiny bird carved into the charred bone of an unknown animal. The statue is about 13,500 years old, the region’s oldest three-dimensional work to date, Reuters reports.
A figurine from Lingjiing’s site in Henan Province depicts a songbird on a pedestal, carved by stone instruments into the final form of it. It’s about 1.5 centimeters long.
The bird was made so that the slightly enlarged tail balanced it, so that the figurine did not fall forward. This suggests that the ancient artist understood the principles of balance, says archaeologist Francesco d’Errico of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), who was involved in the study published in the scientific journal PLOS One.
It is the oldest three-dimensional art found in China and throughout East Asia. Other similar objects are up to 8,500 years younger, according to experts, although abstract engravings in bones and stones or personal ornaments made from animal teeth or shells were also found.
The oldest known three-dimensional engravings were discovered by scientists in southern Germany, dating back 40,000 years and made from mammoths.
Scientists are still unsure whether the three-dimensional art was created independently in different places on earth, or gradually spread from one place to prehistoric people. However, the figurine found in China differs in size, style and techniques from similar and older works from Siberia and Europe. According to d’Erric, this suggests that it is part of its own tradition.