The arts include visual, performing, language, culinary, and physical arts. This encompasses a wider range of activities than the colloquial meaning of "art," which tends to focus on visual forms, like painting and sculpture. The arts are an important part of culture and a means by which billions of people express themselves.
Broadly, the category can be divided into the "plastic arts," involving the manipulation of some external material — such as painting, sculpting, and architecture — and the performing arts, which includes music, dance, opera, theater, and so on.
The arts have been practiced for as long as there have been human beings. Some of the first archaeological evidence of art dates back to cave paintings found in France, dated to 40,000 years ago, not long after humans first started colonizing Europe. These paintings were often of animals such as bison, horses, aurochs, and deer. Tracings of human hands were sometimes found, but actual images of humans were rare.
Art really took off in Classical Antiquity, around 800 BC. Emerging from the shadows of the Bronze Age collapse, Greek civilization created thousands of beautiful statues, plays, and works of architecture, many of which remain popular to this day. Prior to Classical Antiquity, there were various localized civilizations, including Mesopotamia, India, China, and the Pre-Columbian civilizations, that produced artistic works still admired today.
One of the most famous figures in the arts is William Shakespeare, a English playwright who lived in the late 16th and early 17th century. He is often considered the greatest writer of the English language, and his 38 plays are performed in schools and play-houses worldwide.
Another legendary artist was Leonardo da Vinci, who lived in the late 15th and early 16th century. His name is synonymous with the Renaissance in Europe. Da Vinci was a scientist, mathematician, engineer, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, musician, and writer.