First Greek Art Has Been Discovered Inside A Cave On Crete And Dates Back To The Last Ice Age

The art shows extinct animals which have been etched onto the walls of the cave, and the petroglyphs have now been determined to be over 11,000 years old.

11,000-year-old Greek art from the last Ice Age has been discovered on Crete.
Dimitri Messinis / AP Images

The art shows extinct animals which have been etched onto the walls of the cave, and the petroglyphs have now been determined to be over 11,000 years old.

Archaeologists have just made the surprise discovery of a cave on Crete that holds what is believed to be the first known Greek art dating back to over 11,000 years ago during the last Ice Age. The art was found inside the Asphendou Cave, which is located in the Sphakia region of the island and features now-extinct animals etched into the rock.

Dr. Thomas Strasser of Providence College remarked that, so far, this is the very first art undertaken during the Paleolithic period that has ever been discovered in Greece, according to the Times.

“This is the first Paleolithic art ever found in Greece. It’s significant because it deepens the history of art there by many thousands of years, and is like an eyewitness account of Ice Age Crete. Archaeological and paleontological information, as well as new technologies unavailable to earlier scholars, offer evidence to confirm a Paleolithic date for the earliest carvings.”

While archaeologists were already well-acquainted with the petroglyphs inside this cave, which Dr. Strasser has described as “a confusing jumble of engravings that had eluded dating,” the exact date of the 11,000-year-old Greek art was not originally known due to the numerous layers of petroglyphs inside the cave, each of which was etched over previous ones.

When the drawings were originally viewed, archaeologists at first believed that they were gazing at petroglyphs of goats, which they had mistakenly dated back to around the Bronze Age, which would have put its age at only around 4,000-years-old.

However, once archaeologists were able to look at the oldest layers inside the cave, they noticed that the petroglyphs showed a type of dwarf deer known as Candiacervus ropalophorus, which would have roamed Crete 21,500 years ago and became extinct at least 11,000 years ago.

These dwarf deer were known for having exceptionally long antlers, and archaeologists have previously recovered specimens of the animal inside other caves on the island, according to the Greek Reporter.

To learn more about the 11,000-year-old drawings, archaeologists employed something known as photogrammetry, which is a method used to map distances between different objects, such as these petroglyphs.

Once the recordings of the art were obtained, they were then taken and used so that they could be compared with the remains that had been found of the dwarf deer. The final result of the study was that the petroglyphs were determined to represent “a Paleolithic animal herd without ground line or background,” as Dr. Thomas Strasser noted.

With the exciting discovery that the Greek art discovered in the Asphendou Cave on Crete is from the last Ice Age and over 11,000-years-old, archaeologists can now definitively say that they have found the oldest known Greek art.