MadSci Network: Science History

Re: When was the first optical illusion recorded ?

Date: Thu Mar 1 15:48:38 2007
Posted By: Bryan Dunne, Instructor, Astronomy, University of Illinois
Area of science: Science History
ID: 1159891126.Sh

One of the oldest optical illusions created by humans (as opposed to noticing a natural visual phenomenon, such as how a pole half immersed in water will appear to be broken) are the coins of Lesbos, a Greek island. These coins date back about 2500 years ago.

Ancient coin from the island of Lesbos

The coin face shows two boar's heads confronting each other, but combined, the two boars heads can be seen as a panther's head, facing outward.

A more familiar optical illusion of a similar variety is the "Old woman/young girl" picture. Depending on how you perceive the picture, you either see an old woman looking to the left with her chin to her chest or a young girl looking away from you over her right shoulder.

Old woman/young girl

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