Archaeologists discover 45,500-year-old cave art in Indonesia

A group of archaeologists from Griffith University discovered what is believed to be the world’s oldest known cave painting, dating back 45,500 years. Cave art was found in South Sulawesi while conducting field research with a leading Indonesian Archeology Research Center called Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional (ARKENAS). The cave painting is a symbolic depiction of a Sulawesi warty pig, a common creature on the Indonesian island.

The Pig board It was discovered in a limestone cave at Leang Tedongnge. It is considered the oldest known representational artwork in the world. The cave is located in a valley surrounded by steep limestone cliffs and is only accessible by a narrow pass during the dry season. The valley floor is completely submerged during the rainy season.

An isolated Bugis community lives in the Hidden Valley who say Westerners have never visited the valley. The pig painting dates back at least 45,500 years and is part of a rock art that sits atop a high ledge along the back wall of the cave. Researchers describe the painting as a pig with a short top of erect hair and a pair of horn-like facial warts in front of the eyes, all of which are hallmarks of adult male Sulawesi pigs.

Painted with a red ocher dye, the painting shows the pig observing a fight or social interaction between other warty pigs. Researchers say humans have hunted warty pigs for tens of thousands of years, and they are the most commonly depicted animals in the island’s rock art of the Ice Age.

The researchers suggest that dating rock art is a huge challenge. However, the rock art produced in limestone caves can be dated using uranium series analysis of calcium carbonate deposits that naturally form on the surface of the cave wall where the art was painted. It was those mineral deposits that allowed the team to determine the 45,500-year-old history of cave art. Mineral deposits formed on the surface of the art, indicating that the art was painted before the deposits formed. The earliest pre-art rock art dates back 43,900 years.

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