Animation discovered on 5,200-year-old pottery

A 5,200 year old piece of pottery from Iran has been discovered to embody the oldest known animation in the world -- a wild goat eating vegetation:
The wild goat motif can be seen on Iranian pottery dating back to the 4th millennium BCE, as well as jewellery pieces especially among Cassite tribes of ancient Luristan. However, the oldest wild goat representation in Iran was discovered in Negaran Valley in Sardast region, 37 kilometers from Nahok village near Saravan back in 1999. The engraved painting of wild goat is part of an important collection of lithoglyphs dating back to 8000 BCE.

However, wild goat representation with a tree is associated with Murkum, a mother goddess who was worshipped by all the Indo-Iranian women of the Haramosh valley in modern Pakistan, which culturally had closer ties with Indus and subsequently the Burnt City civilisations, than Mesopotamia, which could had influenced the ancient potter who made this unique piece.

Link (Thanks, Robbo!)


  1. I remember a story about archaeologists trying to play back incidental sounds recorded on a turned bowl that would have been captured phonograph style by the air in the room beating on a decorating stylus. They breathlessly play back the ancient recording and get a deliberate message from the past; a lot of useless rubbish about sheep care and other daily trivialities of the time.

  2. Takuan #1 Mythbusters Episode 62: Killer Cable Snaps, Pottery Record ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 10/11/2006

    Verdict: busted!

    But that pottery animation is very cool. Too bad the abacuses back then couldn’t play GIF’s….

  3. Yeah, it was also on the X-Files in a joke episode written by David Duchovny.


    I just outed myself, didn’t I?

  4. busted or not, viewing this kind of thing to make it animate is trivial: rotate the pot on a wheel, and look through a slit. you might need to rotate slits around the image, but not massively hard.

    its persistence of vision stuff. zeotrope.

    so, unlike the ‘sound of the potter’ urban myth, visualizing the animation is actually well within of-its-time capability. As to anyone working it OUT .. thats another matter.

  5. Up for interperatation.

    Is it really an attempt to show a sequential action (goat jumping up to bite leaves off a tree) – or just some sloppy painting, with the goat drifting off centre? I’d be interested to see the actual bowl, with goat images in context. Not this animated gif.

  6. It’s amazing, so lifelike! It doesn’t even compare with today’s computer graphics or cell animations.
    I can now imagine Iranian kids on Saturday mornings sitting around and watching various kinds of pottery. I wonder if they had commercial interuptions as well.

  7. I bet these are hard to find because people got to spinning them and breaking them. Then the artist was probably dragged away for be witchy.

  8. Apparently Cory doesn’t read Xeni’s posts…

    Seriously, though. The animation is a bit manipulated. Here’s a pic of the original 5-frame image on the pottery. While debatable as “animation” it does plainly depict small actions in time sequentially, which is significant in itself.

  9. #8 This is Boing Boing. Craigslist is down the street. Sad to inform you that your best customer just resigned.

    #12 and 13 I think the actual pottery images make it look more like animation. Just add sprockets and you would have a strip of film.

  10. I don’t think that’s an accident of sloppy painting. If the painter was just slacking off, the goat would be more distorted from panel to panel, but its feet would stay anchored on the baseline.

  11. Now I’ve seen the actual pics, in situ on the pottery, I’d say it’s highly debatable whether the intention is to show a sequence of actions. I don’t buy it.

  12. What Yamara said. Though the image is described as a five-frame animation, the animated version has nine frames, all sharing the same background. Just putting the actual pot on a spinning wheel, you wouldn’t get anything nearly as clean-looking.

  13. But was it INTENDED to be seen as “animation”? In other words, did the potter design the pot to be spun so people could watch a scene of a jumping goat? It may be intended more like a comic book– several scenes of a jumping goat.

  14. Amazing how they managed to duplicate the plants exactly in each frame so that nary a leaf even flutters slightly.

  15. Just so #8 doesn’t think she/he is being picked on… The comment I made earlier referencing that number has been removed. It was like, totally bogus man.

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