Beijing (dpa) - A bird carved out of bone: The find in Lingjing in the Chinese province of Henan shows that artistic traditions with animal sculptures in East Asia already existed 8,500 years earlier than previously known

With an estimated age of 13,500 years, it is the oldest known Chinese work of art, as researcher Li Zhanyang from Shandong University and international colleagues explain in the science journal "PLOS ONE".

The earliest sculptures were discovered in Europe. This includes the 31 centimeter tall “lion man” made of mammoth ivory from the Swabian Jura, which is 35,000 to 41,000 years old. Since it is not clear to other parts of the world how long figures have belonged to culture, the little bird is an important piece of the puzzle and sheds new light on the development of art in human history.

"The figure differs technically and stylistically from other specimens found in Western Europe or Siberia, and it could be the missing link that traces the origins of Chinese sculptures back to the Paleolithic Age," the authors write. Researchers from the Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, the Universities of Bordeaux and Bergen in Norway, and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel were involved in the study of the find.