The oldest undisputed figurative art appears with the Aurignacian, about 40,000 years ago, which is associated with the earliest presence of Cro-Magnon artists in Europe. Figurines with date estimates of 40,000 years are the so-called Lion-man and Venus of Hohle Fels, both found in the Southern Germany caves of the Swabian Jura.
The artist depicts a group of wild or domesticated horses (from Chauvet Cave, France, ca. 31,000 years old)
Löwenmensch, or Lion Man, dated between 40,000 and 35,000 years old, an ivorysculpture that is both the oldest known animal-shaped sculpture in the world and, the oldest known uncontested example of figurative art. The sculpture is now housed in the Ulm Museum in Ulm, Germany.
La Pasiega cave (Spain) – an art gallery created in prehistoric times, the exhibition of artwork here runs for at least 120 meters. Contains ladder-shaped abstract drawings controversially dated to older than 64,800 years (Mousterian).
Altamira cave (Spain) – in 1879 the first prehistoric paintings and drawings were discovered in this cave, which soon became famous for their depth of color and depictions of animals, hands, and abstract shapes.
Chauvet Cave (France) – some of the earliest cave paintings known, and considered among the most important prehistoric art sites.
El Castillo cave, one of the Monte Castillo caves (Spain) – contains decorations in red ochre paint which has been blown onto the walls in the forms of hand stencils as long as 37,000 years ago, and painted dots. One faint red dot has been dated to 40,800 years ago, making it the oldest dated cave decoration in the world. It is 5,000-10,000 years older than caves so-far found in France.
Lascaux caves (France) – contains some of the best known artworks of early painters, many of those portraying large animals.
Bhimbetka rock shelters (India) – the shelters, decorated with art from 30,000 years ago, contain the oldest evidence of artists exhibiting their work on the Indian sub-continent.
Chufin cave (Spain) – small cave with engravings, stick figures, and artwork schematically portraying red deer, goats and cattle.
Côa Valley (Portugal) – artists engraved thousands of drawings of horses and other animal, human and abstract figures in open-air artwork completed 22,000 to 10,000 years ago.
Font-de-Gaume in south-west France contains over 200 polychrome paintings and engravings from artists who worked over 17,000 years ago. The cave's most famous painting is a frieze of five bison, although renditions of many other animals, including wolves, are featured.
Montastruc decorated stone, an approximately 13,000 year old scratched or engraved human figure on a piece of limestone – which appears to be female –used as a lamp. From Courbet Cave, France, it now resides in the British Museum.
Australia and parts of Southeast Asia remained in the Paleolithic stage until European contact.
The oldest firmly dated rock-art painting in Australia is a charcoal drawing on a rock fragment found during the excavation of the Nawarla Gabarnmang rock shelter in south western Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. Dated at 28,000 years, it is one of the oldest known pieces of rock art on Earth with a confirmed date.
Bradshaw rock paintings (Australia) – Aboriginal artists painted well over a million paintings in this site in the Kimberley, many of human figures ornamented with accessories such as bags, tassels and headdresses. These artworks are well over 20,000 years old.
Gabarnmung (Australia) – this rock-art site in the Northern Territory features the oldest artwork in Australia at over 28,000 years. Aboriginal artists painted fish, crocodiles, people, and spiritual figures, mostly on the site's ceilings. The site also includes panels of recent paintings, radiocarbon dated to between AD 1433–1631 and AD 1658–1952 (calibrated 95% CI), consistent with the reports that the cave was still visited within living memory.
12 kyaCuciulat cave (Romania) features several red paintings of animals, including horses and felines, which are about 12,000 years old. These were the first manifestations of this kind known in Central Europe.
7 kyaAdam of Govrlevo, or "Adam of Macedonia". At more than 7,000 years old, the sculpture is the oldest artifact found in the Republic of North Macedonia. The artist depicts a sitting male body, and shows details of his spine, ribs, navel, and phallus. The piece is now exhibited in the Skopje City Museum.
Les Combarelles (France) – two galleries showcase more than 600 engravings. The more-than-11,000-year-old artwork portrays such subjects as reindeer drinking water from the river that flows through the cave, cave bears, cave lions, mammoths, and various symbols.
Cueva de las Manos (Cave of Hands) (Argentina) – a series of caves exhibiting hundreds of outlines of human hands, hunting scenes, and animals painted 13,000 to 9,000 years ago.
Bird stones (5,000 to 2,500 years old) are portable bird-shaped stone sculptures created by generations of North American sculptors.
Toquepala Caves (Peru) – "Abrigo del Diablo" and the other caves contain at least 50 noted pieces. The artists used paint made from hematite, and painted in seven colors with red being dominant.
^Clottes, Jean (2003). Chauvet Cave: The Art of Earliest Times. Paul G. Bahn (translator). University of Utah Press. ISBN0-87480-758-1. Translation of La Grotte Chauvet, l'art des origins, Éditions du Seuil, 2001, p. 214.
^Michel Geneste, Jean (2010). "Earliest Evidence for Ground-Edge Axes: 35,400±410 cal BP from Jawoyn Country, Arnhem Land". Australian Archaeology. 71 (December): 66–69.
^Robert Gunn, Bruno David, Jean-Jacques Delannoy and Margaret Katherine, "The past 500 years of rock art at Nawarla Gabarnmang, central-western Arnhem Land" in: Bruno David,
Paul S.C. Taçon,
Jean-Michel Geneste (eds.),
The Archaeology of Rock Art in Western Arnhem Land, Australia (2017), pp. 303–328.