Some clay bison occupying a lonely cave in France may set an impossible standard for any other item that could grace our “History File” tab. We’re not sure of anything older that we could offer up here. It’s comforting, though, knowing that clay sculpture has been with us for so long.
A casual observer might walk right past the Bison of Tuc D’Audoubert without giving the sculpture a glance. It appears to blend in with the rocky cave surroundings. After a moment, however, it becomes apparent that this is not just another boulder sitting on the floor of a damp cave. This may be one of the older pieces of art still in existence. From the Bradshaw Foundation:
The sculptures are a unique wonder of the Art world. Two foot long, eighteen inches high, three to four inches thick, modelled in clay, the surface given a wet finish to make them smooth. The finger strokes of the artist can be seen running down the length of the animals. The mane and beard are etched with a tool, but the marking along the jawbones are done by the artist’s fingernail. The horns are rougher and not water treated. The clay has cracks running across the bodies, indicating that the sculptures have dried out, although the clay we were sitting on is still quite pliable.I scraped a small ball of clay from the floor and kneaded it in my fingers and thought about the Supreme Artists who had conceived this marvellous composition.