Whilst exploring the wonderful 'Collection' in Lincoln (UK) (http://www.thecollectionmuseum.com/) I stumbled across this:
It's a replica of the Witham Shield, found in 1826, but dating back to the Iron Age. 3000 years ago, metalworkers began to use iron; to make knives, files, hammers and axes, but also to decorate objects. It's struck me before, and no doubt will again, that there must be an innate human instinct we posses to create beauty around us where ever we can. From thousands of years ago, we have examples of the care and attention of the most skilled artisans, and it's truly wonderful stuff. My photography does this piece of work very little justice, but this shield includes: ornate bosses inset with coral, evidence of a wild boar emblem, and according to the description, the copper alloy it is made from is likely to have been 'polished to a lustrous sheen'. Imagine that!
It blows my mind that thousands of years ago someone held this, someone fought with this, but someone also MADE this.
The original now resides in the British Museum...must try and go to see it soon!
The quest is now on - what's the earliest example of artistry I can find? If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear from you.