## World’s oldest animation, 5,200 years old

Film showing images from a 5,200-year old bowl from an ancient burial site in Iran.

An Italian team of archaeologists unearthed the bowl goblet in the 1970s from a burial site in Iran’s Burnt City, but it was only recently that researchers noticed the images on the bowl tell an animated visual story.

The oldest cartoon character in the world is a goat leaping to get the leaves on a tree.

The artefact bears five images depicting a wild goat jumping up to eat the leaves of a tree, which the members of the team at that time had not recognised the relationship between the pictures.

Several years later,Iranian archaeologist Dr Mansur Sadjadi, who became later appointed as the new director of the archaeological team working at the Burnt City discovered that the pictures formed a related series.

The bowl has some controversy associated with it. Some researchers claimed the tree on the bowl to be the Assyrian Tree of Life, but the bowl dates to a period before the Assyrian civilization.

Now this is deeply cool. The Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) in Iran has made a short film using the images on a bowl from the Burnt City. The Burnt City (Shar-i Sokhta) is a site in Iran that dates to about 2600 BC, and has seen some decades of investigation. The bowl shows five images of a wild goat leaping, and if you put them in a sequence (like a flip book), the wild goat leaps to nip leaves off a tree.

Bugs Bunny has nothing to worry about yet, if you ask me.

Animate discussion, share the word:

### 179 Responses to World’s oldest animation, 5,200 years old

1. Randy says:

This is more of a statement on our own arrogance in thinking about ancient peoples missing the glaring concept they could think 4th dimensional. This has been around for 4000 years we assume when we find it the primitive brain just wasn’t that smart. ….or the pointy head brainiacs who go into this field maybe need a liberal arts education?
Now there is a concept!
WOW we as a culture have some major self image issues.

2. Very incredible this ancient animation is!

3. The goat appears to be eating coffee cherries. Look for Kaldi somewhere on the object, kind of like “where’s Waldo”, only it’s “where’s Kald?”

4. Sean says:

If you spun the bowl and blinked your eyes quickly I think you might get an animation efect rather than simply a blured patern of lines.

5. Bob Kincaid says:

What a brilliant re-examination of a seemingly statuc piece of artwork!

I can’t help wondering how many archaeological treasures the world will lose when George Bush orders the bombing of Iran. What a crying shame!

Scads of priceless artifacts were lost in Baghdad when U.S. troops rushed off to “conserve” the Iraqi Ministry of Oil, leaving the museums and a significant chunk of civilization’s patrimony open to the depredations of marauding troops and looters.

6. DarthTurducken says:

Photoshopped!

7. lanangdw says:

cool

8. sgitheach says:

he he! that’s weird. but cool!

9. [...] um artigo no blog MillardÂ´s Filmore Bathtub e leia o artigo original na CAIS – The Circle Of Ancient Iranian Studies. [...]

10. Bhob says:

There is an older animation. I saw photos in a book published around 1975 but don’t recall the title. The photos showed an ancient carving on a rock, positioned and designed so shadows created an image with movement as the day progressed.

11. neorhazes says:

yup its cool bro…

i think the oldest animation is at altamira cave in spain…

but now…i think this one is elder..haha
wkwk

12. blueberrybubblebath says:

wow!!! that’s kewlness!!!it means they’ve thought about animation in a crude way 5,200 years back way way before we discovered it in our time!!! awesome!!!

13. [...] oldest cartoon character in the world is a goat leaping to get the leaves on a tree.read more | digg [...]

14. Thank you George and Sculptus Poe for noticing how “fakey” the resulting animation stands.
I tried to do a better version here : http://cela.etant.free.fr/stories/?page_id=62

15. [...] Visto en Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. [...]

16. Gilmot says:

My family really enjoyed your jellied pig ear recipe. Do you have any more?

17. murx says:

It took them FIVE YEARS to realize this?
Five (5) pictures on one and the same bowl?

That’s their science work? A 5 year old child would realize the connection and action on those images in less then a minute…

Who pays those iditos?… No matter how much they get, it’s too much

18. [...] clipped from timpanogos.wordpress.com [...]

Great! But is it have been remodificated?

20. avyaya says:

Thats an amazing this to know.

Thanks for sharing.

21. Daryoosh says:

You know that Iran is a country with an ancient history (3.600 years-civilization). 2 years ago in Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (http://www.tehranmoca.com/en/index.aspx) was a international festival about Burnt City and this bowl. What a pity that you were not :) Thanks for share it so bon. Ed, visit it: http://www.chnpress.com/ It’s CHTHO agency news for more news about Burnt City.

22. bull says:

bout time someone called out that hack of an artist-Winsor McKay.

23. Wow interesting!

24. thekarrotcakelover says:

THIS IS COOL!!!

25. ssdspi says:

Very nice

26. Pam says:

O’Maolchathaigh
Yes, I believe that people not familiar with sequential animation (pen and ink) will form a gestalt of the creature (in this case) and therefore it is entirely unnecessary to twirl the bowl to see the goat jumping.

Some examples would perhaps come from some of the Yup’ik artists (circa 1930s, my references are currently in storage) whose complex yet not complicated abstract drawings convey an entire day hunting. Sometimes these drawings are made with subtle but significant changes to convey this action. The lines in the sand children draw with story knives are another example– someone else can see the story unfold by looking at the drawing alone. Again, this is not a simplistic drawing.

A lot of petroglyphic activity conveys animation (that is embued with life; active), but not all. Some people are more skilled than others.

You make a key point in my favor-

an animation as we know it today.

Think of it like this– how do you “know” a flip book is supposed to be an animation of a single “thing”? Training yourself to see animation from a series of still special images imposed upon each other (vertical) is comparable, I would think, to training yourself to see animation from a set of still special images side by side (horizontal), no?

An optical illusion would be different.

27. Sol says:

So simple, yet unnoticed. Something to look for when seeing similar items in museums in the future (with new eyes).

28. Virgilio Failoc Rojas says:

$\textcolor{BrickRed}5200 Years Old, wow!{this is BrickRed}$

29. Habib Al-Hussein says:

This goat looks exactly like the Saturday morning cartoons I watched as a kid in Iran.

Thanks for sharing…

31. [...] Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub blog reports on a post by the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies blog about the recent discovery of [...]

32. Reminds me of some of the cartoons I used to do in my textbooks in elementary school. I think every textbook I owned had those page flipping animations in them, and some got really elaborate.

This goat jumping guy would have had a ball with textbooks.

Have an amazing day!

Micheal

33. rusty1108 says:

Thats so cool! I might be 10 years old but i know awsome! I want a 5,200 year old dog!

34. [...] Full story [...]

35. O'Maolchathaigh says:

Pam,
is that in our modern “eye”? Can we extrapolate back to pre-movies, pre-TV, pre-animation as we think of it, to expect that people without exposure to such things would have been inspired to see an animation in their mind, based soley on a few images? As an avid follower of all things animated, I don’t quite make that leap in my own mind from a few pictures. I can see someone remembering an animal or person move and the images would remind them of that, but movements are so quick, relatively, that I find it hard to believe that a few satatic images, of movemnts that would have only been seen as an aggregate, a blur, if you will, could possibly inspire pre-technology peoples to “see” an animation, unless it was put on a spinning or rotating object for that purpose. It seems to me that animation followed realtively quickly after photography developed to the point of capturing a still image from motion.

36. Andrew says:

I have to agree with my fellow skeptics. The individual movements of the goat look far too much the same to be done by even a skilled artist at the time. The fact the this was drawn on concave surface make me doubt it ever more.

37. lisaheidrich says:

very cool!
Thanks for sharing….
~Lisa
http://lisaheidrich.wordpress.com

38. Mulele says:

So what’s the difference between animation and a comic strip?

39. Ned says:

Fake.

40. raincoaster says:

Congratulations. Have you been BoingBoing.net ed yet? You should. Glad to see you finally getting the media attention this blog has deserved for so long.

Conglatulation! both of your blog, and this post are high ranked in
“The top blogs of the day” report

42. Hassan Abbas says:

wow!!! isnt it amazing

Oldest Animation Is 5,200 Years Old

According to this news source, this is a 5,200 year old animation.
The Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) announced on Monday that it has recently completed the production of a documentary about the …

44. crazyharp81602 says:

Amazing! Thanks for sharing!

45. mauigem says:

Cool!

46. Engr. Dr. says:

Labeeda, uuuhhhm. Iranians are not Arabs. They are Persians.
Btw, I don’t think that all stuff attributed to be of Arab origin are actually of Arab origin. They may just have integrated the knowledge from the older cultures and races from before the time when Islam became dominant. Integrators = yes. Discoverers = maybe or no.

47. El Santo says:

Very cool! I suppose the urge to translate motion into something of record has been with us since the beginning of time. I wonder if they’ll dig up other attempts to capture motion?

48. [...] Una caricatura de 5,200 aÃ±os This entry was written by testigo and posted on March 11, 2008 at 4:41 pm and filed under url. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « Sinister monkey [...]

49. [...] Film showing images from a 5,200-year old bowl from an ancient burial site in Iran. [...]

50. clubpenguin1994 says:

go to http://www.buckeyebadboys.com it is so awesome

51. [...] March 11, 2008 by triazolium First, this. [...]

Arabs are so smart :) Everything originated in the middle East

53. em says:

Please keep in mind that there are many things that were extremely sophisticated in many parts of the Middle East, Indian sub-continent and China in the years well before the Christian Era.

Another “invention” that comes to mind is the electric battery. Even though the tool looked different (in a clay container), it was the same object, with the same purpose, and their metallurgy has many aspects that were far more sophisticated than today. Even in this past 2 milleniums, there were South American tribes who made silver alloys which are not able to be reproduced today.

These are all sophisticated Cro-Magnon peoples, with basically NO biological difference between them and us. Don’t equate “ancient” with Neanderthal.

The Cro-Magnons made some of the most beautiful artwork we have, and spinning, with the eye of an artist, would have been an easy “leap” to make the intermediate steps.

Thanks for sharing.

Em
http://diabetesdietdialogue.wordpress.com
“Everyone knows someone who needs this information!”TM

54. Pam says:

Keep in mind some “animations” don’t need to be literal– that is, we currently think of a series of images that must be overlapped to be animated. But in other places, a series of static images will trigger the animation in one’s mind’s eye. ;)

from bOING-bOING, comes a link to another ancient animation, Gods of war

55. [...] Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization site. Acknowledgment also to the commendable Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, where I found the [...]

56. alexushilton says:

Here’s one that an artist sent me..

AH

57. [...] Tiene 5200 años de antiguedad… A pesar de que al jarron lo descubrieron en los 70′s, hace poco que notaron que las imagenes creaban una animación. El gif no tiene Loop, asi que para verlo de nuevo hay que actualizar… World’s oldest animation, 5,200 years old « Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub [...]

58. Shideh says:

Very interesting. Thank you for sharing this.
I got an email yesterday about the great wall of Iran that was recently discovered, which you may find interesting (and in line with the content of your blog):

59. esfahan08 says:

This is a drop from the ocean about Iran. This country is about culture and civilisation (something the world is not well aware of due to speculations against this country.

60. [...] Considering my appreciation for comics, cartoons and all things animated, of course I would be drawn to a blog about the world’s oldest animation. [...]

61. uniqueminds says:

how come the back ground doesn’t change a little? It shouldn’t be perfect

62. mlabossi says:

True-the animation video is clearly not a film of an actual spinning goblet. Try spinning a cup with images on it (like a fast food cup) and see what that would look like. Also, as others have indicated, the background images are identical frame by frame. That would not be possible with a hand made goblet.

Even if the goblet showed a progression of events, it would not be clear that it was intended as an animation. Of course, the technology needed to create animation is rather basic (think of a flip book) so people could have been making them for quite some time.

In any case, it is always interesting to see claims about the first whatever.

63. jebn says:

this is one of the best ways to learn about art, art history, world history. Thank you for sharing!

64. [...] oldest animation ever!! [...]

65. paulmct says:

Now if I was a contemporary bowl/pottery maker…

Should we expect to see a revival of animated stories on ceramics? Retro seems to work with just about everything else.

Combine it with the modern Lazy Susan and you can keep kids (or yourself) entertained at meal times. ;-)

Very interesting post.

66. O'Maolchathaigh says:

The drawings were obviously meant to illustrate an action. One could have spun the goblet to achieve a simple form of “animation”, but it is pure conjecture to say that someone did so then. Well, of course, Mr. Cartmell, the pond fronds were duplicated from one frame, to create a visual animation of the animal, the main object of movement. The fronds are not important except as background. I doubt any kind of exact duplication was possible at the time. It doesn’t detract from the use of the images to create what we recognize as an animation. That being said, I think it is stretching it to say this was the world’s first animation, because we don’t have context. If the images were drawn on something like a potter’s wheel that we know spins, it might have been a safe guess that it was an animation as we know it today. Otherwise, it is a very short series of stills depicted on a cup, nothing more. Since the drawings were painted on after the cup was made, it is unlikely the artist saw the sequence move as we do now.

67. harayz says:

wow.. amazing, but not surprising. imagine times before tv, radio, tabloid magazines, etc. im sure they had something to entertain them and this would probably one of the first discovery of how the ancient people uses some form of media, but i would not be too surprise if we discover more about it.

68. Dave says:

There needs to be an anticipate pose before the goat begins it’s leap.

69. [...] at 1:39 pm (Uncategorized) Tags: cartoons, fun, history, life, prehistory, religion I was reading this blog post today about the rediscovery of an ancient Iranian goblet as one of the earliest (perhaps the [...]

70. veerubhai says:

Interesting. Would appreciate if you’d like to check out genuine stuff in my blog:
http://www.veersworld.wordpress.com

Good article about the animation. I still doubt as to, animation 5,200 years old? Makes up a curious post though, congrats!

Veerender

71. George says:

Actually, it appears that many of the frames have been duplicated. The goat in frames 2 & 4 are identical as are 4-6-8, 3-7, and 1-9.

Still a pretty cool piece of art but the “animation” is a bit of an exaggeration.

72. Ed Darrell says:

So, Jeff: Got a bead on that 11-minute film? Access to the archaeological journals? Search away, let us know if you find a cleaner version.

73. Jeff says:

Matt Cartmill’s got it right.

I’d like to see a less manipulated version of this.

The first and last frames of the goat look superficially identical as well. Obviously it’s been enhanced to be visually ‘clean’ … but how much have the enhanced the ‘animate-ability’ of the original decoration for sensational effect?

74. [...] reading an article which caught my eye. It was one of the most recent blogs which talked about a 5,200 year old cartoon. The title caught my eye. This blog is about an ancient artifact found in Iran in the 1970’s. [...]

75. sedgehammer says:

As usual, fun AND interesting stuff. Way to go Iranians! I am adding you to my blogroll.

76. dushyantraj says:

wow! after looking this, I doubt modern man’s saying that he is more advanced than he had ever been.

77. [...] This animation has been making its rounds. [...]

78. La animaciÃ³n mÃ¡s vieja del mundo

Tiene 5200 aÃ±os de antiguedad y, a pesar de haber sido descubierto en los 70′s; no fue sino hasta hace poco que notaron que las imagenes creaban una animaciÃ³n.

79. John Norris says:

Looks like the images are on the outside of the goblet. I wonder if the markings on the inside of the goblet are directly across from the middle of the image. That might indicate some sort of siting mark…similar to the notch in a zoetrope. Still it would be “inside-out”.

http://tinyurl.com/2dbhby

80. riccardo campari says:

really Matt are you joking?
you can’t possibly think anyone would believe in the existence of animations in 3k bc..
I guess that the zoetrope possibility is closer to the truth, and a cool thing to think for the now-ashes men of the time. anyone interested in large scale production? O_o

81. Sculptus Poe says:

http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Images2/Pre_History/Burnt_City/Burnt_City_Boz_details.jpg

Here is the original image. Definitely not exactly the animation depicted, though it is a progressive series of pictures.

It stands, jumps only once and then bites the top of the tree.

http://www.cais-soas.com/News/2008/March2008/04-03.htm

82. John Norris says:

hmmm…if the images were on the inside of the goblet, it could be used as part of a simple zoetrope. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoetrope)

83. Matt Cartmill says:

This film has been faked, at least to some degree. The frame for each of the nine goat images is absolutely static — that is, there are nine microscopically identical images of the palm fronds, which is impossible do achieve with a paintbrush. So if this pot exists, the film was made by photographing the nine “frames,” deleting the goat in one of them, and then photoshopping the nine goat images into the empty frame. The animation effect may have been produced, or enhanced, by the positioning of the photoshopped images. We can’t tell from the film.

84. tan crayon says:

Wow, that’s awesome

85. I don’t know what to say. I thought it’d be funny.

Kind of like this: http://www.comember.net/blogs/firepixel/

The Obama one that is…

86. Stupid Goat says:

It could have just eaten from the lower limbs.

87. Ed Darrell says:

Wonderful question — I’ve been searching for a copy of the 11-minute film, to see if there’s an explanation. No luck on my part.

I also loved the commentary on an alt.net board that linked to this post.

“They had .gif 5,000 years ago? Who knew?” “Yeah, but did they pronounce it with a hard g or a soft g?”

88. L. H. Ilsay says:

I’m sorry, but if there are five images on the bowl why are there eight steps in the above animation?

89. Ed Darrell says:

Burnt City didn’t stick around long enough to develop anticipation, or squash, or stretch.

Hey, these animators were working with ceramics, drawing the pictures and firing them. Think of the medium! Let’s see you cartoon in ceramics, L. animator.

90. Lame animator says:

There’s no anticipation or squash and stretch. Take acting classes.

91. AldoManutio Abruzzo says:

What’s really sad is that it took them this long to notice … so much for academia.

92. Eva says:

Very fun.

93. Mo says:

Proud to be an Iranian.

94. A.Ho says:

Wow, that’s cool. Thanks for the share.

95. eyeingtenure says:

To Whom it May Concern: As of 7:30 a.m. PST tomorrow, tag.

96. Dorid says:

That’ amazing. I suspect a lot of people will be spinning these ancient bowls now ;) I agree, this isdeeply cool!