Ancient Animation

Image from Ryan Ball, March 2008

Before this lecture, I was very much under the impression that animation was a fairly modern technology, but this discovery has changed my mind, and given me a much more profound respect for the discipline.

An ancient earthenware bowl, discovered by archaeologists in Iran, has recently been understood to depict the earliest form of animation. Originally thought to be a decorative object, researchers have come to the conclusion that the images of a goat are actually a set of five sequential images, which depict the goat jumping up to a tree for a piece of fruit.

Although the meaning or intention of this animation is unclear, one theory says that the goat is eating from the tree of life, although this seems to be disputed, and one of many different theories.

Animation nowadays can be used as a medium to express opinion, for pleasure or to teach. Although the artefact dates back to 2600BC, clearly not much has changed as I’d say this ‘ornament’ ticks all of the boxes above. Although technological advances have made animation a very slick and effective discipline, this artefact shows that animation- even in its simplest from- was a medium used to effectively communicate or convey the thought of one man to another.

Perhaps in the future, people will look back at Pixars animations like we look upon this earthenware bowl, and try to understand that at one point in time, that was a form of animation. I’d like to think so.