Jaadet Al-Maghara, Syria, October 9, 2007—
It looks like modern art, but this painting could hardly be older.
Archaeologists discovered the painted pattern of black, white, and red among the ruins of an 11,000-year-old house in northern Syria—making it the oldest wall painting ever discovered.
Researchers uncovered the prehistoric artwork while excavating the dwelling near the Euphrates River some 280 miles (480 kilometers) north of Damascus (see map
Inhabitants of the Stone Age settlement were hunter-gatherers, archaeologists said, and the site where the painting was found likely housed many families. The meaning of the decoration remains a mystery.
"There was a purpose in having the painting in what looked like a communal house, but we don't know it," French archaeologist and team leader Eric Coqueugniot told the Reuters news service.
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Photograph by Directorate of Museums and Archeology/HO/AP