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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Special Reports - From Neolithic Marvels to Ancient Relics: Exploring 25 of the Oldest Items on Earth

Special Reports

From Neolithic Marvels to Ancient Relics: Exploring 25 of the Oldest Items on Earth

Countless Americans harbor a profound fascination for ancient artifacts, ranging from cherished family heirlooms to revered museum relics. These objects serve as tangible windows, offering glimpses into the materials, necessities, and inventive techniques of bygone eras. Among the most ancient relics are those of natural origin, such as the earliest known dinosaur fossil or the world’s oldest tree. 

On the other end of the spectrum, there are man-made artifacts like 40,000-year-old cave paintings that lack the stylistic advancements seen in later artistic expressions. While not always visually striking, humanity’s initial forays into photography, architecture, and music unveil ingenious methods or charming simplicity. 

Nicéphore Niépce’s “View from the Window at Le Gras,” recognized as the earliest surviving photograph, exemplifies this, pioneering a new artistic medium despite its seemingly mundane subject. Certainly, many of Earth’s oldest items evade artistic analysis altogether, either predating humanity or arising through natural processes. 

This includes the awe-inspiring oldest tree, standing for over 5,000 years, and the oldest known rock, surpassing it by approximately 230 million years. Ancient rocks and trees, existing long before the advent of humanity, function as captivating natural time capsules. In moments when historical records fall short, these relics offer a profound connection to times long past.

Exploring here some of the world’s oldest treasures across various categories:

  1. Recording
    Oldest: Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, “Au Clair de la Lune”
    Approximate Date: 1860 A.D.
    Location: Paris, France
    While many credit Thomas Edison for inventing recorded sound, French inventor Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville made a breakthrough years earlier. In 1857, he patented the phonautograph, and in 1860, Scott is believed to have created the first known musical recording by singing a part of the French folk song “Au Clair de la Lune” into his machine. Historians discovered Scott’s phonautograph and recordings in 2007.

  2. Photograph
    Oldest: Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s “View from the Window at Le Gras”
    Approximate Date: 1826-1827 A.D.
    Location: Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, France
    Although not as clear as modern photographs, Niépce’s “View from the Window at Le Gras” marked a groundbreaking moment in technology around 1826 or 1827. It depicted Niépce’s estate in Burgundy, France. Niépce had captured another image in 1822, but his “heliograph” of an engraving of Pope Pius VII was destroyed in a later attempt to copy it.

  3. Globe
    Oldest: Behaim Globe
    Approximate Date: 1491 A.D.
    Location: Nuremberg, Germany
    The Erdapfel, or “earth apple” in German, is considered the oldest surviving 3-D model of the Earth. Also known as the Behaim Globe, created by Martin Behaim, it was completed in 1491. Despite its initial impressiveness, Columbus’ discoveries soon revealed inaccuracies in the globe.

  4. University
    Oldest: University of Al Quaraouiyine
    Approximate Date: 859 A.D.
    Location: Fez, Morocco
    Originally established as a mosque in 859, the University of Al Qaraouyine was founded by Fatima Al-Fihri. Initially a religious institution, it attracted leading Muslim scholars. While it fell into disrepair, Morocco’s culture ministry initiated restoration efforts in 2012.

  5. Restaurant
    Oldest: Stifskeller St. Peter
    Approximate Date: 803 A.D.
    Location: Salzburg, Austria
    Operating for over 1,000 years, Stiftskeller St. Peter, situated in the same building since its founding, is recognized as the world’s oldest restaurant. Some of its sections are carved into the stone cliffs near the original abbey. The historic establishment claims to have hosted numerous celebrities and royals.

  6. Wine Bottle
    Oldest: The Speyer Bottle
    Approximate Date: 325-350 A.D.
    Location: Speyer, Germany
    For wine enthusiasts, The Speyer Bottle stands out as the oldest, buried in the tomb of a Roman noble around 325-350 A.D. Discovered sealed with wax in Speyer, Germany, in 1867, experts are uncertain if the wine inside is still drinkable. While it may not bring joy to the palate, the contents are believed to be preserved.

  7. Tablet
    Oldest: The Etruscan Gold Book
    Approximate Date: 660-600 B.C.
    Location: Struma River, Bulgaria
    Crafted from six sheets of 24-carat gold and bound with rings, The Etruscan Gold Book is believed to be the world’s oldest multi-page book, dating back to 660-600 B.C. Inscribed in Etruscan characters, the plates depict a horse, a horseman, a mermaid, and soldiers. Unearthed in 1943 near the Struma River in Bulgaria, the book resides in Bulgaria’s National History Museum in Sofia.

  8. Map
    Oldest: Babylonian Map of the World
    Approximate Date: 700-500 B.C.
    Location: Babil Governorate, Iraq
    The world’s oldest known map, etched onto a tablet around 700-500 B.C., unfolds the Mesopotamian landscape. It showcases Babylon at its center, surrounded by identified places like Assyria. Encircling these lands is the “Salt Sea.” Accompanying the map is cuneiform text narrating tales of heroes and mythical creatures. Discovered in Sippar, Iraq, in the late 1800s, the map is now housed in the British Museum.

  9. Currency/Coin
    Oldest: Lydian Stater
    Approximate Date: 750-560 B.C.
    Location: Turkey
    Around 2,500 years ago, the ancient kingdom of Lydia (now Turkey) pioneered coin usage with the Lydian Stater. Made of electrum, a natural gold and silver alloy, these staters endured over time and spread across Eurasia. In 2014, a diver found one in the Black Sea off Bulgaria’s coast.

  10. Bridge
    Oldest: Mycenaean Bridge at Kazarma
    Approximate Date: 1,300-1,200 B.C.
    Location: Arkadiko, Greece
    Constructed over 3,000 years ago, the Mycenaean Bridge at Kazarma in Arkadiko, Greece, remains in use today. This ancient arch bridge, a marvel of engineering, lacks adhesive and features curbs, likely designed to prevent chariots from veering off.

  11. Written Piece of Music
    Oldest: Hurrian Hymn No. 6
    Approximate Date: 2,000-1,400 B.C.
    Location: Ugarit, Syria
    The earliest known written music piece, “Hurrian Hymn No. 6,” composed around 1,400 B.C., pays homage to the goddess Nikkal. Uncovered in Ugarit, Syria, in the 1950s, the song, inscribed in cuneiform on clay tablets, comes with instructions on playing it on a lyre. Before this discovery, historians believed the music scale was as old as ancient Greece.

  12. Shipwreck
    Oldest: Port of Urla Wreck
    Approximate Date: 2,000 B.C.
    Location: Izmir, Turkey
    Regarded as the world’s oldest shipwreck, the Port of Urla Wreck, discovered at Turkey’s Urla Port, is estimated to be around 4,000 years old. In 2014, archaeologists from Ankara University made this significant find in a location with a history dating back to the seventh century B.C. As a coastal town, Urla Port has become a repository for numerous sunken ships. The eighth-century earthquake that struck the city caused its submersion into the sea.

  13. Religious Text
    Oldest: Egyptian Book of the Dead
    Approximate Date: 2,670 – 2,613 B.C.
    Location: Egypt
    Crafted as a guide for deceased Egyptians navigating the afterlife, the Egyptian Book of the Dead dates back more than 4,600 years, originating during Egypt’s Third Dynasty. Discovered in tombs, these intricate paintings and texts gained immense popularity, with individuals often commissioning their own copies. One completed copy measured over 40 feet in length.

  14. TreeOldest: White Mountains Bristlecone Pine
    Approximate Date: 3,050 B.C.
    Location: White Mountains, California
    The world’s oldest single tree, a 5,067-year-old Bristlecone Pine in California’s White Mountains, surpasses the age of the previously renowned Methuselah. Discovered in the 2017 growing season, this ancient tree’s exact location is kept secret to ensure its preservation.

  15. FoodOldest: Neolithic Burnt Bread
    Approximate Date: 3,620-3,350 B.C.
    Location: Oxfordshire, England
    Contrary to a typical college fraternity refrigerator discovery, the world’s oldest food is a piece of burnt bread found in Oxfordshire, England. Originally thought to be charcoal, this overcooked bread, dating back 5,500 years, revealed crushed barley grains, indicating Neolithic-era farming practices in what would become England.

  16. Crown
    Oldest: Nahal Mishar Hoard Crown
    Approximate Date: 4,500-3,600 B.C.
    Location: Judaean Desert, Israel
    Unearthed in a cave above the Dead Sea in 1961, the world’s oldest crown, part of the Nahal Mishmar Hoard, is a simple metal adornment featuring vultures and doors. This crown, residing in the Copper Age, remained in the cave for approximately 6,000 years.

  17. Oldest Standing Building
    Oldest: Tower of Jericho
    Approximate Date: 9,000 B.C.
    Location: West Bank, Palestine
    The three-story Tower of Jericho, connected to ancient walls in the West Bank, stands at 11,000 years old. Constructed during the Neolithic period, this tower is believed to symbolize protection against darkness and is linked to the biblical location where Jesus was tempted by Satan.

  18. Mummy
    Oldest: The Chinchorro Mummies
    Approximate Date: 5,050 B.C.
    Location: the Atacama Desert, northern Chile
    In contrast to the Egyptian association with mummies, the earliest instances of mummification occurred in South America. The Chinchorro people in Chile’s Atacama Desert mummified all deceased individuals, irrespective of status, around 5,050 years ago. Despite preservation, these mummies are now deteriorating due to bacterial activity.

  19. Shoes
    Oldest: Fort Rock Shoes
    Approximate Date: 8,970-7,700 B.C.
    Location: Fort Rock, Oregon
    Discovered in Fort Rock Cave, Oregon, in 1938, the world’s oldest shoes are sandals crafted from shredded sagebrush bark. Anthropologist Luther Cressman found these shoes preserved under volcanic ash from Mount Mazama’s eruption 7,500 years ago, with the fibers dating back over 9,000 years.

  20. Place of Worship
    Oldest: The Göbekli Tepe
    Approximate Date: 9,300 B.C.
    Location: Şanlıurfa, Turkey
    Constructed over 11,000 years ago, Göbekli Tepe in Turkey predates many modern religions. Its purpose, possibly linked to worshipping the star Sirius, remains uncertain, showcasing an early example of religious architecture.

  21. Cave Painting
    Oldest: El Castillo Cave Paintings
    Approximate Date: 40,800 B.C.
    Location: El Castillo, Spain
    Spain, home to renowned artists like Picasso, is also home to the world’s oldest cave paintings. Carbon dating in 2012 confirmed that the prehistoric dots and crimson stencils in El Castillo Cave are over 40,000 years old. Neanderthals, believed to be the first painters, might have created these ancient artworks.

  22. Musical Instrument
    Oldest: Bone Flute
    Approximate Date: 41,000-40,000 B.C.
    Location: Hohle Fels Cave, Germany
    More than 40,000 years ago, people were crafting music with bone flutes made from mammoth bones. Discovered in Hohle Fels Cave, Germany, through radiocarbon tests dating them at 42,000-43,000 years old, these ancient flutes provide evidence of early human musical expression.

  23. Jewelry
    Oldest: Krapina Eagle Talon Jewelry
    Approximate Date: 128,000 B.C.
    Location: Krapina site, Croatia
    Unearthed in Krapina, Croatia, about 130,000 years old, the world’s oldest jewelry takes the form of a necklace or bracelet made from eagle talons. Found at a Neanderthal site, these claws show evidence of cutting marks and polishing, indicating ceremonial use.

  24. Dinosaur Fossil
    Oldest: Nyasasaurus Parringtoni Fossil
    Approximate Date: 245-243 Million B.C.
    Location: Ruhuhu Basin, southern Tanzania
    Providing insights into the emergence of dinosaurs on Earth, the Nyasasaurus Parringtoni Fossil, dated around 245 million years old, surpasses previous discoveries by 10 to 15 million years. This fossil, standing about 3 feet tall and weighing 45 to 135 pounds, represents the current oldest known dinosaur fossil.

  25. Mineral
    Oldest: The Jack Hills Zircon
    Approximate Date: 4.4 billion B.C.
    Location: Jack Hills, Australia
    The world’s oldest known materials, 4.4 billion-year-old zircon crystals from Australia’s Jack Hills region, offer insights into Earth’s early history. These crystals, indicating the formation of water-rich, granite-like rocks and continental crust, highlight the planet’s ancient geological processes.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Special Reports - From Neolithic Marvels to Ancient Relics: Exploring 25 of the Oldest Items on Earth
Deepankar Shyam
Global Breaking News Editor at the CEOWORLD magazine, helping lead the direction of the bureau. I'm a veteran digital storyteller with a record of creating best-in-class content and commerce experiences. I work with our reporters and columnists to develop story ideas, edit their work and coordinate with various other bureaus on coverage. I also have broad industry experience managing and leading change while consistently exceeding readership goals and company expectations.