World's oldest animated movie

How old do you think animation is? Perhaps you know Plane Crazy, the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, from 1928.

How old do you think animation is? Perhaps you know Plane Crazy, the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, from 1928. If you're a fan of film history, you might know about Little Nemo from 1911, and if you (like me) pop off to Wikipedia to refresh your vision, you'll find Fantasmagorie - the first drawn animated movie - from 1908.

Technology buffs should be able to do better than that. The famous Zoetrope - where a succession of images around the inside of a rotating cylinder are viewed through slits in the cylinder wall - is iconic of the moving image. That was invented in 1834, but you can find antecedents going all the way back to first century China: it's also the basis for BBC 2's current ident.

But we can do even better than that, thanks to recent news from Iran's remarkable Burnt City, one of the most enigmatic Bronze Age sites in the world. Located in southeastern Iran, it's a city that dates back to more than 5000 years ago, and excavations have already uncovered such delights as the first known artificial eyeball (decorative purposes only) and the earliest backgammon game.

And now, the earliest animation. This is a clay bowl, decorated with successive images of a goat leaping up to snatch a leaf from a tall tree. The bowl was discovered in the 1970s and dated to around 5200 years ago, but nobody realised the significance of the decorations: that came later.

Last Sunday, there was a celebration of the find held in Iran, together with the release of an eleven minute film documenting its discovery and the realisation of its status. Haven't been able to find that film online yet, but you can see an animation of the images courtesy of Animation Magazine.

Rumours that the source code for MS-DOS 1.0 were also uncovered in the dig have not been confirmed.

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