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Classic optical illusions have baffled people for centuries. Can you beat them?

Optical illusions have been around for over a thousand years. The oldest visual puzzle known to man was carved into the stone of an Indian temple. For centuries people have struggled to conquer these classic optical illusions. Can you?

If you’re not an expert-level puzzle master, it’s hard to figure out how these puzzles work. On the bright side, you can use them to test your eyes and train your brain. Tap or click here to discover seven challenging wordsearch games.

These visual puzzles double as historical mysteries that have yet to be solved, that is, by you. This is for anyone wondering, “How long have optical illusions been around?” Although it is difficult to identify the inventor of the optical illusion, we already know what the oldest optical illusion in the world is.

Even 900 years ago, artists multi-pushed

You can find stimulating optical illusions all over the internet, from TikTok to Instagram. A popular optical illusion from TikTok poses a popular challenge. Can you spot the hidden elephant in this cartoon?

But if you’re looking for the oldest optical illusion known to mankind, you’ll have to quit social media. Then you need to book a flight ticket to India. Specifically, you should head to Airavatesvara Temple in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

This sacred Hindu temple is full of elaborate animal carvings. One of its 900-year-old ornaments depicts two conjoined animals with what appears to be a single head. In reality, there are two heads, but most people only see one at first. Which animal do you see first?

It just goes to show that puzzle games have a timeless appeal. There are two animals you might see:

  • Elephant: It represents Airavat, a sacred elephant related to King Indra.
  • Bull: It represents Nandi, a sacred bull related to Lord Shiva.

As you can see, this optical illusion meant a lot to its ancient sculptors. If you’re having trouble seeing the separate animals, Twitter has you covered. This animation reveals every hidden animal.

However, most historical illusions do not have such a religious bent. Others have a literal bent – like the hidden object in this 16th century portrait.

This started the trend of classic optical illusions in the West

In 1533, a German oil painter named Hans Holbein the Younger was playing with perspective. Looking directly at this image, it looks like a strange, stretchy blob is in the image. Turn your head and you realize the blob is actually a skull.

According to art historians, the man who commissioned the painting had a sinister slogan: Memento mori. In Latin, it means “Remember that you are going to die”. You can see it in the National Museum in London.

Holbein used a technique known as anamorphosis, which means “distorted projection”. It followed a trend started by Leonardo da Vinci, who created a striking optical illusion made of eyes.

Image: Beckyfeltham.wordpress.com

These optical illusions have endured over the centuries as they are a unique blend of science and art. You watch them and learn more about how your eyes and brain work.

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