Archaeologists have discovered the world’s oldest known cave painting: a life-size picture of a wild pig made in Indonesia at least 45,500 years ago.
The discovery, described in the journal Science Advance on Wednesday, provides the earliest evidence of human settlement of the area.
Australia’s Griffith University co-author Maxim Aubert told AFP that it was found by doctoral student Basran Burhan on Sulawesi Island in 2017, with the team running with Indonesian officials as part of the survey.
Leang Tedongnge Cave is located in a remote valley, surrounded by sheer limestone cliffs, about an hour’s walk from the nearest road.
It is only accessible during the dry season because flooding occurs during the wet season – and members of the isolated Bugis community told the team that it had never been seen before by Westerners.
The Sulawesi warty pig, measuring 54 cm (53 by 21 in), used a dark red ocher color and has a small crest of hair, as well as a pair of horny-faced warts that are adult of the species The specialty of men.
There are two handprints above the pig’s hunders, and it faces two other pigs that are only partially protected, as part of a narrative scene.
Adam Braum said, “The boar observes a fight or social interaction between two other warts pigs.”
Humans have hunted Sulawesi brain pigs for thousands of years, and they are a prominent feature of the region’s prehistoric artwork, especially during the Ice Age.
Early human migration
A dating expert, Aubert, identified a calcite deposit that formed at the top of the painting, then used uranium-chain isotope dating to confidently say that the deposit is 45,500 years old.
He said that this painting is at least of age, but it may be very old because the dating we are using only uses calcite dates on it.
He said, “The people who made it were completely modern. They were just like us. They had the ability and the tools to make any painting they loved.”
The same oldest rock art painting was found in Sulawesi to the same team. It depicted a group of part-humans hunting mammals, and was found to be at least 43,900 years old.
Such cave paintings also help fill the gaps about our understanding of early human exodus.
It is known that people arrived in Australia 65,000 years ago, but they may have had to cross the islands of Indonesia, known as “Wallacea”.
The site now represents the oldest evidence of humans in Wallacea, but it is hoped that further research will help show people much earlier in the region, which would solve Australia’s settlement puzzle.
The team believes that the artwork was created by Homo sapiens, which is now unlike extinct human species such as Denisovans, but cannot say for some.
To create handprints, artists would have to put their hands on a surface, then spit pigment on it, and the team hopes to try to extract DNA samples from residual saliva.
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