John Cartwright in Physics World:
Europeans are often a little too eager to take credit for innovation. Copernicus may have formalized the heliocentric model of the solar system in the early 1500s, for example, but the Pole only did so with the help of vast tables of astronomical measurements taken 200 years earlier in Iran. Even the scientific method itself, often thought to have emerged from Galileo’s experiments in Italy around the same time, has its roots with Arab scientists of the 11th century.
Similar lapses of history occur in the art world. Many still think of oil painting as a European invention of the early Renaissance, perfected by the 15th century Flemish painter Jan van Eyck, who supposedly stumbled across the medium while experimenting with glazes. But they too are mistaken.
“A whole mythology sprang up around van Eyck’s so-called invention of oil painting,” explains Jenny Graham, an art historian from the University of Plymouth, UK, and author of the recent book Inventing Van Eyck. “But it has long been recognised that oil painting was documented in the 12th century or even earlier and may have originated outside Europe.”
Art historians have always lacked real examples to bear out this documentary evidence. Now, however, scientists performing experiments at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) on samples of murals taken from Afghanistan say they have uncovered what could be the earliest known examples of oil paintings.
More here. [Thanks to Manas Shaikh.]