Daily Bulletin


News

  • Written by Adam Brumm, Professor, Griffith University

The dating of an exceptionally old cave painting of animals that was found recently on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi is reported in our paper out today.

The painting portrays images of the Sulawesi warty pig (Sus celebensis), which is a small (40-85kg) short-legged wild boar endemic to the island.

Dating to at least 45,500 years ago, this cave painting may be the oldest depiction of the animal world, and possibly the earliest figurative art (an image that resembles the thing it is intended to represent), yet uncovered.

Oldest cave art found in Sulawesi.

Ice age art in Indonesia

Sulawesi is host to abundant cave art, the existence of which was first reported in the 1950s.

Read more: Indonesian cave paintings show the dawn of imaginative art and human spiritual belief

Until recently, the prevailing view was this art was the handiwork of Neolithic farmers who arrived around 4,000 years ago from southern China rather than the hunter-gatherers who had lived on Sulawesi for tens of thousands of years.

We now know that this is not correct.

In 2014, we reported the first dates for the South Sulawesi rock art.

Based on uranium-series analysis of mineral deposits (calcite) that formed naturally on the art we showed that a stencilled image of a human hand found in one cave was created at least 40,000 years ago. This is compatible in age with the famous ice age cave art in Europe.

Ice age art in the tropics.

Then, in 2019, we dated a spectacular painting at another cave that portrays hybrid human-animal figures hunting Sulawesi warty pigs and dwarf buffalos (anoas). This hunting scene is at least 43,900 years old and it features what may be the oldest depictions of supernatural beings.

Earliest hunting scene in prehistoric art.

In our latest study we push the age of Sulawesi’s rock art a little deeper into the past.

The secret valley

In December 2017 we conducted the first survey of an isolated valley set in mountainous terrain a stone’s throw from one of Indonesia’s largest cities, Makassar.

A lush green valley landscape. The limestone karst valley in which Leang Tedongnge is located. David P McGahan, Author provided

Despite its proximity to a major urban centre, there is no road to this valley. The small community of local Bugis farmers live a secluded existence, although they are widely reputed for the sublime quality (and potency) of their palm wine (ballo).

According to them no Westerner had ever set foot in their valley before.

This secret valley is a pristine environment and a place of resplendent natural beauty. There is hardly any rubbish in the tiny village in the centre of the valley. Being there feels like stepping back in time.

The valley harbours a limestone cave known as Leang Tedongnge and inside it we found a rock painting the locals claimed they had never noticed before.

Inside the cave is a painting of warty pigs. Adhi Agus Oktaviana in front of the Leang Tedongnge rock art panel. Adhi Agus Oktaviana, Author provided

The painting was produced using a red mineral pigment (ironstone haematite, or ochre). It depicts at least three Sulawesi warty pigs engaged in social interaction of some kind.

We interpret the surviving elements of this artwork as a single narrative composition or scene, a mainstay of how we tell stories using images today but an uncommon feature of early cave art.

The Leang Tedongnge rock art panel enhanced to make the artwork clearer. The top image has been enhanced (in DStretch) to make the artwork clearer. The bottom image shows a tracing of the art. Adhi Agus Oktaviana, Author provided

Unlocking the age of the art

Dating rock art is very difficult at the best of times. But at Leang Tedongnge we were fortunate to identify a small calcite deposit (known as “cave popcorn”) that had formed on top of one of the pig figures (pig 1).

We sampled the calcite and analysed it for uranium-series dating. Amazingly, the dating work returned an age of 45,500 years ago for the calcite, meaning the painting on which it formed must be at least this old.

A closer image of one of the wild pigs and two hand stencils A close up of the dated warty pig painting at Leang Tedongnge. Maxime Aubert, Author provided

Early art in Wallacea

Our discovery underlines the global importance of Sulawesi, and the wider Indonesian region, for our understanding of where and when the first cave art traditions developed by our species arose.

The great antiquity of this artwork also offers hints at the potential for other significant findings in this part of the world.

Sulawesi is the largest island in Wallacea, the zone of oceanic islands located between mainland Asia and the ice age continental landmass of Australia-New Guinea.

Read more: First pocket-sized artworks from Ice Age Indonesia show humanity's ancient drive to decorate

Modern humans are said to have crossed through Wallacea by watercraft at least 65,000 years ago in order to reach Australia by that time.

But the Wallacean islands are poorly explored and presently the earliest excavated archaeological evidence from this region is much younger.

We believe further research will uncover much older rock art in Sulawesi or on other Wallacean islands, dating back at least 65,000 years and possibly earlier.

Authors: Adam Brumm, Professor, Griffith University

Read more https://theconversation.com/we-found-the-oldest-known-cave-painting-of-animals-in-a-secret-indonesian-valley-153089

Writers Wanted

Love in the time of algorithms: would you let your artificial intelligence choose your partner?

arrow_forward

A Brief Overview of Australian Gun Laws

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Business News

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co

Avoid These Mistakes When Changing up Your Executive Career

Switching up industries is a valid move at any stage in your career, even if you’re an executive. Doing so at this stage can be a lot more intimidating, however, and it can be quite difficult know...

News Co - avatar News Co

4 Costly Mistake To Avoid When Subdividing Your Property

As a property developer or landowner, the first step in developing your land is subdividing it. You subdivide the property into several lots that you either rent, sell or award to shareholders. ...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion