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World’s oldest cave painting

Date: 16 January 2021 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

A team of archaeologists has discovered world’s oldest known cave painting dating back to more than 45,000 years.

 

Background

The cave painting depicts a wild boar endemic to the Sulawesi island of Indonesia, where the painting was found.

 

Details

  • The archaeologists note that the dated painting of the Sulawesi warty pig seems to be the world’s oldest surviving representational image of an animal.

  • The team came across this painting in the limestone cave of Leang Tedongnge while conducting field research.

  • The painting was made using red ochre pigment and depicts a pig with a short crest of upright hairs and a pair of horn-like facial warts in front of the eyes, who is likely observing a social interaction or fight between two other warty pigs.

  • The pigs have been hunted by humans for tens of thousands of years and are the most commonly depicted animal in the ice age rock art of the island.

  • The Sulawesi island contains some of the oldest directly dated rock art in the world and also some of the oldest evidence for the presence of hominins beyond the south-eastern limits of the Ice Age Asian continent.

  • Hominins include modern humans, extinct human species, and our immediate ancestors. Homo sapiens are the first modern humans who evolved from their hominid predecessors between 200,000-300,000 years ago.

  • It is estimated that these modern humans started migrating outside of Africa some 70,000-100,000 years ago.

 

Dating the painting

  • While dating rock art can be challenging, for this painting archaeologists used a method called U-series isotope analysis, which uses calcium carbonate deposits that form naturally on the cave wall surface to determine its age.

  • For the painting, early humans used a calcium carbonate deposit. When it was analysed, they were able to figure out a minimum age for the painting at around 45,500 years.

 

Sulawesi

Sulawesi is a central Indonesian island, located between Asia and Australia and has a long history of human occupation.