Museums Where You Can Discover the World's 10 Oldest Artifacts

Dig back to the very beginnings with these ancient artifacts from The British Museum, the Chauvet Museum, and more

By Google Arts & Culture

For millennia, humans have been making things, breaking things, and burying them in the ground. And over the past few centuries, archaeologists have been digging them up. Thanks to their work, we can travel the world's museums and marvel at some of the oldest objects ever found.

The Origins of Social Media in the Arabian Peninsula by Liane Al Ghusain, Image 4 (2014) by Liane Al Ghusain, provided by Robert KluijverOriginal Source:

Oldest Complaint Letter - 1750BCE

There's nothing quite like the feeling of a human connection across history, and there's nothing quite like being delivered the wrong grade of copper. At the British Museum you can see a 4000 year old complaint from one ancient Babylonian merchant to another.

It reads: "Tell Ea-Nasir: Nanni sends the following message: When you came, you said to me: "I will give fine quality copper ingots." You left, but you did not do what you promised me. You put ingots which were not good before my messenger…"

The first writing: counting beer for the workers (-3100/-3000)British Museum

Oldest Beer Order - 3100–3000BCE

And in a room nearby, you can find one of the earliest mentions of beer. This clay cuneiform tablet was made around 3100–3000BCE in southern Iraq, known as Mesopotamia, and the text records how much beer was given to workers as part of their daily rations.

Ljubljana Marshes Wheel - Oldest Wooden Wheel with an Axle in the World (2020) by Petar MiloševićSlovenian Tourist Board

Oldest Wheel - 3150BCE

The oldest surviving wheel in the world is now kept in the City Museum Ljubljana, Slovenia, after being discovered in a marsh near the town of Vrhnika. We know it would have belonged to a two-wheeled cart, as it was found complete with its axle.

Oldest Settlement - 7100–5700BCE

Çatalhöyük is believed to be one of the oldest settlements in human history. It dates to a time before civilisation as we know it: before writing, cities, or even agriculture. There were no temples or palaces. It seems the people here lived in unparalleled social equality.

This modern recreation of one of the Çatalhöyük homes shows how sparse and simple these little dwellings were. Each house had a simple oven, storage space, and bed platform made from clay, and was accessed from the roof by a ladder.

Oldest Bow - 7000BCE

The remains of five bows dating to the Mesolithic era were discovered at Holmegårds Mose, Denmark, and are now held at the National Museum. By modern standards, the designs are simple and ineffective but unbelievably they would have been used to bring down enormous wild aurochs.

Oldest Stone Structure - 10,000–9,000BCE

The curious stone structures of Göbekli Tepe, Turkey, have baffled archaeologists ever since they were uncovered in 1994. At the time, nobody expected to find megalithic monuments dating to a time before the existence of cities. This discovery has rewritten the history books.

Hohle Venus-Fels (Germany) (2015-04-25/2015-04-25) by Musée de Blaubeuren/smergcGrotte Chauvet - UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Oldest Human Figurine - 33,000–28,000BCE

The small German town of Blaubeuren is home to the oldest known human figurine. The enigmatic 'Venus of Hohle Fels' was discovered in 2008 in a cave in nearby Schelklingen, and is dated to between 28,000 and 33,000 years old.

The statue is small, only a few centimetres, and made of mammoth ivory. It depicts an exaggerated female body, with large buttocks, breasts, and prominent genitals. Similar figures are found across central Europe, and are believed to represent a shared matriarchal culture.

Man-Lion (Hohlenstein-Stadel, Germany) by Université d'Ulm/smergcGrotte Chauvet - UNESCO World Heritage Site

Oldest Sculpture - 38,000–33,000BCE

Even older than the Venus of Hohle Fels is this, the so-called Lion-Man of Hohlenstein-Stadel. Interestingly, this was found not far from the Venus, but dates to nearly 5000 years previously, showing that complex cultures have inhabited the area for an unimaginably long time.

Stone hammerNational Museums of Kenya

Oldest Stone Tools - 3,300,000BCE

At 3.3 million years old, tools unearthed at Lomekwi are the oldest stone tools ever discovered - older than humanity itself. The tools were used by an unknown and extinct, but advanced, species of hominin. They're now held at the National Museum of Nairobi.

Oldest Water on Earth - +1,000,000,000BCE

The oldest water on earth was extracted from a borehole 2.4km deep. A billion-year-old sample is now held at Ingenium, part of the Canada Science and Technology Museum. Explore the Museum here.

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