45,500-year-old cave art found in Indonesia

Date:15 January 2021 Author: Leila Stein

A group of archaeologists have found what they believe is the oldest known cave painting. The researchers from Griffith University stumbled upon the painting while conducting field research in South Sulawesi.

The painting is a depiction of a Sulawesi warty pig, an animal common on the Indonesian island. The team was conducting work in partnership with the Indonesian research centre, Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional (ARKENAS).

“The Sulawesi warty pig painting we found in the limestone cave of Leang Tedongnge is now the earliest known representational work of art in the world, as far as are aware,” said Professor Adam Brumm from Griffith’s Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, co-leader of the Griffith-ARKENAS team in a statement.

“The cave is in a valley that’s enclosed by steep limestone cliffs and is only accessible by a narrow cave passage in the dry season, as the valley floor is completely flooded in the wet. The isolated Bugis community living in this hidden valley claim it had never before been visited by Westerners.”

Rock art is very challenging to date, although the team did take a sample for Uranium-series dating. From this, they discovered the uranium deposit found near the painting was 45,500-years-old. From this, they extrapolated the date of the painting itself.

“We have now dated multiple examples of early rock art in Sulawesi, including depictions of animals and narrative scenes that are outstanding both for the quality of their execution and rarity worldwide”, Professor Aubert, team co-leader and dating specialist said.

Picture: Griffiths University

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