From family heirlooms to antiques shops to museums, many Americans share an obsession for things that are extremely old. This includes man-made artifacts such as a 130,000-year-old piece of jewelry and natural relics such as the fossilized remains of a Nyasasaurus found in Africa believed to be the oldest dinosaur fossil on Earth.
We offer you a glimpse at 50 of the oldest things in the world. We compiled a diverse list, drawing from modern invention such as automobiles to the oldest known star, which predates our own planet by billions of years.
While history books can remain abstract, these relics give us a tangible peek into another time. The early cave paintings, like the 40,000-year-old ones in El Castillo, Spain, lack some of the later-developed perspective techniques and drawing tools. Thousands of years later, we see the earliest example of panel paintings, which are the precursor to classic work from painters like Picasso and Van Gogh.
In other cases, mankind’s first attempts at art, photography, architecture, and music can be either beautiful in their simplicity or impressive in in their ingenuity. The earliest known photograph, Nicéphore Niépce’s “View from the Window at Le Gras,” isn’t a beautiful landscape or a poignant look at a subject. But capturing the first image paved the way for entirely new ways for people to express themselves.
Of course, many of the oldest items on Earth do not invite any artistic analysis because they were either here long before humanity was around or because they are naturally created. This includes the oldest tree, which is over 5,000 years old, and the oldest known rock, which is slightly older than that — by about 230 million years.
We reviewed scientific journals, record collecting organizations, newspapers, and other sources to identify the oldest known item in each of a number of categories. Often, there is less than a historical or scientific consensus as to which is the actual oldest item. These are not necessarily the first item made in a particular category, rather, they are the oldest surviving version.