32,000 years: the age of the oldest known paintings
The Chauvet cave in France contains the earliest known and best-preserved paintings: they are around 32 thousand years old. Film director Werner Herzog made a documentary in 3D, called Cave of Forgotten Dreams, about this cave, which is worth seeing.
Another one of the most famous caves is Lascaux, which is also in France, but is much more modern: its paintings are around 17,000 years old. It is interesting to realize that Lascaux paintings are as old to us as Chauvet paintings were for the painters of Lascaux.
The vast majority of the sites containing figurative rock art painted by the first settlers of Europe are located in France and Spain. However, there are many other locations in Eastern Europe and Asia where explorers have found numerous sculptures and musical instruments.
The enclosed map shows the location of the caves that contain pictorial art from the Upper Paleolithic. The extent of the ice during the last Ice Age, 18,000 years ago, when it reached its maximum, is shown as a line through Northern Europe. Sea levels during the Ice Ages were 120 meters lower than at present, as billions of gallons of water were locked away in huge continental ice sheets.