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Timelines of World Art: Africa

c. 24,000 BC

Paintings in charcoal, ochre and white pigments of such animals as zebras and rhinoceroses, found on portable stones in domestic debris in the Apollo 11 cave in Namibia, are the oldest datable rock paintings in Africa. Read more...

c. 8000 BC

Rock-carvings of large animals are created by hunter gatherers during the Bubalus antiquus period and are the oldest known example of rock art in Africa. Read more...

c. 7000 BC

The earliest pottery made in Africa, in the form of utensils and figurines, is produced in the Sahara region. Read more...

c. 7000 BC–3000 BC

Rock paintings made in North Africa during the Pastoral period, as represented by scenes of cattle herding and vignettes of daily life at Tassili N'Ajjer in Algeria, reveal an increased sense of naturalism and mastery of colour over rock art of earlier times. Read more...

c. 3200 BC

The paintings of boats, animals, hunting and combat scenes, as well as the scene of a hero holding back two lions, that decorate the walls of Tomb 100 at Hierakonpolis are among the most important monuments of Egypt's Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods. Read more...

c. 3000 BC

Considered ancient Egypt's first great work of art, the large schist Narmer Palette celebrates the glory of King Narmer, shown smiting his enemy. Read more...

c. 2610 BC

The first monumental structure built entirely of stone is a six-stage stepped pyramid designed by the architect Imhotep for King Djoser at Saqqara, Egypt. Read more...

c. 2551 BC–c. 2528 BC

King Cheops orders the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza, the largest pyramid ever constructed and originally 146 metres tall. Read more...

c. 2500 BC

The Great Sphinx at Giza depicts in stone the head of the Egyptian King Khafre atop the body of a reclining lion. This monumental statue guards the roadway to Khafre's pyramid tomb. Read more...

c. 1991 BC–1785 BC

Multi-chambered tombs at the Egyptian necropolis of Beni Hasan are carved from living rock, requiring great skill and effort. Painted scenes from daily life on the walls of the tombs provide an invaluable glimpse into the common concerns and activities of the upper classes at the time. Read more...

c. 1650 BC–c. 1500 BC

Kerma, the site of a Kushite town in Sudan, produces finely made pottery vessels. While most are black-topped red wares, some containers are elaborately painted and others are decorated with appliquéd or incised markings. Read more...

c. 1426

Queen Hatshepsut, one of ancient Egypt's three female rulers, constructs a massive and imposing funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri as part of an extensive campaign using art and architecture to glorify her reign. Read more...

c. 1390 BC–1336 BC

Ancient Egyptian glassmakers make lively-looking small bottles for scented oils and cosmetics in a variety of shapes and with multiple colours. These core-formed vessels are made by applying and working molten glass on a rigid interior base. Read more...

c. 1340 BC

This famous painted limestone bust of Queen Nefertiti celebrates the unique status and privileges granted to her by her husband Akhenaten, as she is depicted in the same royal style as he is in his official portraits. Read more...

c. 1332 BC–c. 1323 BC

King Tutankhamun is buried in a lavish tomb, furnished with magnificent jewellery, textiles, throne, gold chariots and a coffin made of gold inlaid with glass and semi-precious stones. The sumptuousness of the grave goods attests to the pharaoh's wealth and power in life, and the rich symbolism of the ornamentation reveal his beliefs about the afterlife. Read more...

c. 1275 BC

Ancient Egyptians bury finely illustrated manuscripts, known as Books of the Dead, in their tombs to provide guidance to the deceased in the trials that take place in the afterlife. Read more...

c. 700 BC–c. 100 BC

A wide variety of burial urns and tomb furnishings maintained at the Sanctuary, or Tophet, of Tanit, Carthage's primary goddess, illustrate the city's religious concerns and practices, including for a time the sacrifice of young children. Read more...

c. 500 BC–200 BC

Sculptors in Nok, Nigeria produce terracotta heads, probably for religious purposes, that seem highly animated, although their features are exaggerated so that they appear slightly caricatured. Read more...


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