World's Oldest Cave Art Depicts Humans and Pig Found in Sulawesi, Indonesia Aged 51,200 Years Old

World's Oldest Cave Art Depicts Humans and Pig Found in Sulawesi, Indonesia Aged 51,200 Years Old
Earliest known cave art by modern humans found

In a groundbreaking discovery, Australian and Indonesian scientists have uncovered the oldest example of figurative cave art on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. The stunning painting, depicting a wild pig and three human-like figures, has been dated to at least 51,200 years old, surpassing the previous record by more than 5,000 years.

This discovery significantly shifts our understanding of when modern humans first demonstrated the ability for creative thought. Prof. Maxime Aubert from Griffith University in Australia shared with BBC News that this finding will alter current perceptions of human evolution. "The painting tells a complex story. It is the oldest evidence we have for storytelling, illustrating that humans at the time had the capacity to think in abstract terms," he said.

The painting is the earliest known example of representational art

The depicted scene shows a pig standing still with its mouth partly open, surrounded by three human-like figures. The largest figure is extending both arms, seemingly holding a rod. Another figure is positioned in front of the pig, appearing to touch its snout with a stick. The third human-like figure is depicted upside-down with legs splayed outwards, reaching out towards the pig.

The scientific team, led by Adhi Agus Oktaviana from Indonesia's National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), points to the importance of narrative storytelling in early human culture. "Humans have likely been telling stories for much longer than 51,200 years. While words do not fossilize, we can infer storytelling from artistic depictions like this,” Oktaviana explained.

Previously, the oldest evidence for drawing consisted of geometric patterns found on rocks in the Blombos Caves of southern Africa, dating between 75,000 to 100,000 years ago. The new figurative art from the limestone cave of Leang Karampuang in South Sulawesi, however, represents a critical advancement in human abstract thinking and creativity.

Dr. Henry Gee, senior editor at Nature, where the findings were published, noted, "Something significant seems to have happened around 50,000 years ago, around the time other human species such as Neanderthals and the 'Hobbit' began to disappear." He suggests there could be even earlier examples of such art yet to be discovered.

The painting found on the island of Sulawesi depicts a complex scene of a hunting party. Adam Brumm/Nature

Prof. Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London expressed the possibility of ancient representational art originating in Africa. "This find strengthens the idea that representational art was produced in Africa over 50,000 years ago and spread as our species migrated." He emphasized the need for further research to uncover more evidence and confirm these findings.

Also read:  World’s Oldest-Known Figurative Paintings Discovered in Southeast Asian Cave

This new dating technique, which involves using a laser to analyze tiny amounts of the artwork, has made these insights possible. Wider application of this method may lead to re-dating other cave art sites globally, potentially pushing back the timeline for the emergence of representational art.

The scene found in Indonesia shows, among other things, hunters confronting a wild buffalo with ropes and spears. Adam Brumm/Nature

Until recently, the oldest known cave art originated from Europe, leading some to believe that the creative surge responsible for modern art and science began there. However, the discovery of colored hand outlines in South Sulawesi in 2014 and subsequent findings, including the depiction of an unknown animal in Borneo in 2018, have challenged this Eurocentric view.

Prof. Adam Brumm from Griffith University highlighted the implications of these discoveries on the understanding of storytelling in early human history. "That the oldest cave art found in Sulawesi thus far consists of recognizable scenes implies that humans were using art to communicate narratives – to tell stories,” he stated.

Akhyari Hananto

I began my career in the banking industry in 1997, and stayed approx 6 years in it. This industry boost his knowledge about the economic condition in Indonesia, both macro and micro, and how to More understand it. My banking career continued in Yogyakarta when I joined in a program funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB),as the coordinator for a program aimed to help improve the quality of learning and teaching process in private universities in Yogyakarta. When the earthquake stroke Yogyakarta, I chose to join an international NGO working in the area of ?disaster response and management, which allows me to help rebuild the city, as well as other disaster-stricken area in Indonesia. I went on to become the coordinator for emergency response in the Asia Pacific region. Then I was assigned for 1 year in Cambodia, as a country coordinator mostly to deliver developmental programs (water and sanitation, education, livelihood). In 2009, he continued his career as a protocol and HR officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya, and two years later I joined the Political and Economic Section until now, where i have to deal with extensive range of people and government officials, as well as private and government institution troughout eastern Indonesia. I am the founder and Editor-in-Chief in Good News From Indonesia (GNFI), a growing and influential social media movement, and was selected as one of The Most Influential Netizen 2011 by The Marketeers magazine. I also wrote a book on "Fundamentals of Disaster Management in 2007"?, "Good News From Indonesia : Beragam Prestasi Anak Bangsa di dunia"? which was luanched in August 2013, and "Indonesia Bersyukur"? which is launched in Sept 2013. In 2014, 3 books were released in which i was one of the writer; "Indonesia Pelangi Dunia"?, "Indonesia The Untold Stories"? and "Growing! Meretas Jalan Kejayaan" I give lectures to students in lectures nationwide, sharing on full range of issues, from economy, to diplomacy Less
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