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Current Affairs

World’s oldest art work discovered in Indonesian cave

Date: 13 December 2019 Tags: Paintings


An Indonesian cave painting that depicts a prehistoric hunting scene could be the world's oldest figurative artwork dating back nearly 44,000 years.



The painting was discovered two years ago on the island of Sulawesi and its age was estimated using dating technology.



  • The 4.5 metre wide painting features wild animals being chased by half-human hunters wielding what appear to be spears and ropes.

  • It was confirmed that the limestone cave painting dated back at least 43,900 years during the Upper Paleolithic period.

  • Researchers say that the hunting scene is currently the oldest pictorial record of storytelling and the earliest figurative artwork in the world.

  • For many years, cave art was thought to have emerged from Europe, but Indonesian paintings have challenged that theory. There are at least 242 caves or shelters with ancient imagery on Sulawesi alone, and new sites are being discovered annually.

  • In the latest dated scene, hunters are depicted in dark red colours with human bodies and the heads of animals including birds and reptiles.

  • The painting suggests that a highly advanced artistic culture existed some 44,000 years ago, punctuated by folklore, religious myths and spiritual belief.

  • This is noteworthy, given that the ability to invent fictional stories may have been the last and most crucial stage in the evolutionary history of human language and the development of modern-like patterns of cognition.

Famous Paleolithic paintings in India


  • The Bhimbetka rock shelters are an archaeological site in the state of Madhya Pradesh. It exhibits the earliest traces of human life on the Indian subcontinent and evidence of Stone Age habitation starting at the site in Acheulian times.

  • Some of the Bhimbetka rock shelters feature prehistoric cave paintings of which the oldest date from 10,000 years BP, corresponding to the Indian Mesolithic. The paintings show themes such as animals, and early evidence of dancing and hunting.

  • Bhimbetka is a UNESCO world heritage site.