Thursday, 23 May, 2019

Oldest figurative art discovered in Indonesia cave

Oldest known animal drawing found in remote Indonesian cave 'Oldest animal painting' discovered in Borneo
Adrian Cunningham | 09 November, 2018, 23:24

Thousands of other prehistoric painting were also discovered in this and nearby caves, including pictures of humans from around 13,600 years ago, and stencils of hands. Homo sapiens left Africa between about 70,000 and 60,000 years ago, and "once they spread out across Eurasia, they developed, after about 40,000 years ago, the desire (or ability) to produce figurative art", Christopher Henshilwood, director of the Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour at the University of Bergen in Norway, who wasn't involved with the study, told in an email.

The remote limestones caves on Borneo have been known to contain prehistoric drawings since the 1990s. Years have passed since its discovery, but the most recent research involving it sheds light on just how old some of these markings are.

"Whether this is a coincidence, the result of cultural convergence in widely separated regions, large-scale migrations of a distinct Eurasian population or another cause remains unknown", they noted.

Previously, the oldest known animal painting in the world was an approximately 35,400-year-old babirusa, or "pig-deer", on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, he said.

A 2014 Nature paper published by Aubert and Brumm (with ARKENAS) revealed that similar cave art appeared in the Indonesian island of Sulawesi about 40,000 years ago.

The researchers grouped the work into three phases: red-orange paintings of animals (mainly wild cattle) and hand stencils; younger, mulberry-coloured hand stencils and intricate motifs; and human figures, boats and geometric designs in black pigment. Well, if you get lucky - and Aubert and his team did - some rock will have grown over the art in the intervening millennia.

A painting of an animal in an Indonesian cave dates from at least 40,000 years ago, making it the world's oldest piece of figurative art, new research has shown.

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The hand stencils are made in a similar pigment, and were determined to be at least 37,000 years old. In addition to the bull, they dated red- and purple-colored hand stencils and cave paintings of human scenes.

The artwork is located in a remote cave in Borneo, according to the study - it's not easy to access and presents little evidence of former human habitation apart from the paintings.

Until recently, most researchers thought the home of the earliest figurative paintings-those depicting people and animals rather than abstract objects-was France's Chauvet Cave. The transition to depicting the human world hints a significant change occurred in the region, according to researchers.

"It is now evident that rock art emerges in Borneo at around the same time as the earliest forms of artistic expression appear in Europe in association with the arrival of modern humans (45,000-43,000 years ago)", Aubert and colleagues wrote in their report. The team used uranium dating of the calcium carbonate deposits that built up over and around the paintings.

Limestone mountains in East Kalimantan, Borneo. "And it's interesting because I think we have the same thing in Europe".

"We don't know if these [different types of cave art] are from two different groups of humans, or if it represents the evolution of a particular culture", Aubert said. "But the fact that many of them are in places that are hard to access, where people don't normally live, suggests a "ritual" element in their creation", he added.

After large animal drawings and stencils, "It seems the focus shifted to showing the human world", Aubert said. Which means that we might soon find out who these peoples were, or at least what they lived like.