Archaeologists working on an ancient site on Sulawesi island, Indonesia have discovered the oldest known figurative artwork said to be at least 45,500 years old. As per reports, the artwork which is an image of a wild pig provides the earliest evidence of human settlement in the area. The cave painting is also said to be the oldest surviving image of an animal.
There's something about ancient rock art that gives you the goosebumps. Figurative cave painting is now pushed back to at least 45,000 years ago. Many more discoveries are coming from the limestone caves of Sulawesi. https://t.co/OnEFVaw2N5 pic.twitter.com/SDGIH3IUE5— Jonathan Amos (@BBCAmos) January 14, 2021
The painting is reportedly made using red ochre pigment. The animal in the painting appears to be observing a fight or social interaction between two other pigs. According to CNN, there are several other limestone caves in the region where other discoveries have been made. In 2014, a team of archaeologists had found human hand stencils in Sulawesi. These were dated 40,000 years old. In 2019, the same team of archaeologists had discovered cave art in the region depicting a hunting scenario dating to 43,900 years ago.
A doctoral student had found the painting in 2017
Wion reported that study co-author Maxime Aubert of Griffith University, Australia told that the warty pig painting was found in 2017 by a doctoral student named Basran Burhan as part of the surveys that his team was carrying out with Indonesian authorities. The Leang Tedongnge cave where the painting is found is located in a remote valley enclosed by sheer limestone cliffs. The cave is accessible during the dry season only as flooding makes it impossible to reach the cave during the rainy season. The painting measures 136 by 54 centimetres.
Prior to the discovery of the warty pig cave painting, the oldest known cave art was considered to have appeared in Europe 40,000 years ago showing abstract symbols. The art became more sophisticated showing animals like horses by 35,000 years ago. According to National Geographic, scientists have identified images in around 300 caves over the last 70 years in Sulawesi alone.
Dating of the cave painting
According to study co-author Aubert, a calcite deposit formed on the top of the painting was used to date it. He used Uranium-series isotope dating to reach the conclusion that the painting was at least 45,500 years old. This means that the painting could be older than that.