Tracing the history of art is, well, an art, not a science - so all dates are very approximate.

Tracing the history of art is, well, an art, not a science - so all dates are very approximate.

15,000 B.C.

Ancient European Cro-Magnons execute some real masterwork using charcoal and dirt: cave paintings of animals that are miraculously still on the walls today.

5000 B.C.

Pictographic writing appears. The avant-garde discovers paint!

1000 B.C.

The Egyptians make papyrus (it'll be another 800 years before the Chinese invent actual paper).

200-100 B.C.

And the grandeur that was Rome: A magnificent winged statue, which will later be discovered on the island of Samothrace, christened Nike and moved to the Louvre, is born.

1000

Say what you will about rampaging barbarian hordes - this is a remarkable era for art. Tapestries, tempera, fresco and ink all appear around this date, and paper is manufactured in Europe for the first time.

1250

More and more new types of paint are discovered, and gorgeous Gothic buildings, a la Notre Dame, start to rise.

1400

Botticelli! Da Vinci! The Renaissance begins, and paintings get deep, showing a linear perspective. Oil paint and pastels appear.

1500

Michelangelo! Raphael! Titian! El Greco! Bruegel! It's the High Renaissance, and in addition to a heck of a lot of beautiful paintings, the stuff under them gets noticed, too - the era is notable for the first use of canvas.

1600

If it ain't Baroque ... well, actually, it is! Rembrandt and Rubens are busy with self-portraits and paintings of voluptuous naked ladies, respectively. In a completely unrelated development, the pencil has been invented.

1800

In painting, there's Goya, and the introduction of a new technique called "watercolor." In photography ... wait, there's photography? It's invented in 1826.

1850

Pre-Raphaelite paintings of women with flowing red hair, the invention of the fountain pen - sigh, it's all so romantic.

1875

Van Gogh! Monet! Seurat! Cassatt! Gauguin! Renoir! They all leave a good Impression (groan). Also, the ballpoint pen is invented, giving way to the art of doodling.

1900

Things get weird. Artists spend the first half of the century building up and then tearing down new movements: Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, Dada and Surrealism. Also, at age 20, Picasso literally gets the blues.

1950

Pollock! Warhol! De Kooning! Rothko! Things get even weirder, with Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and Op Art.

2000

Oh, lordy. Nude sculptures of Britney Spears giving birth on a bearskin hit the scene. We don't even know where to start with the weirdness. Can't we just go back to cave-painting?

Adapted from In the Beginning (HarperCollins), which is available at leading bookstores. For a daily dose of quirky fun, visit MentalFloss.com and check out mental_floss magazine at your local newsstand.