Dating back 13,000 years, a miniature bird figurine carved from burned bone has become the oldest known three-dimensional Chinese and East Asian work of art .
These works are the first examples of prehistoric humans representing the world around them in three dimensions.
The figure is shaped like a songbird on a pedestal. Using radiocarbon dating on the discovered burned animal remains (including a bone with anthropogenic groove marks also observed in the bird’s carving), the authors were able to estimate the age of the bird’s figure and associated bone material to be between approximately 13,400 and 13,200 years.
Found in the Palaeolithic site of Lingjing, in Henan (China), the study of its find is described in a study carried out by Zhanyang Li , of Shandong University, and his colleagues that has been published in Plos One :
This discovery identifies an original artistic tradition and sets the representation of birds in Chinese art back more than 8,500 years .
Representations of birds are a theme in Chinese Neolithic art, with the earliest example of a jade songbird dating back approximately 5,000 years. The figure differs technologically and stylistically from other specimens found in Western Europe and Siberia, it could be the missing link that traces the origin of Chinese statuary art to the Paleolithic.