In a hidden valley on an Indonesian island, there is a cave that can be decorated with modern eyes as the oldest figurative art.
According to a study published Wednesday in Science Advance, a vivid depiction of wild mulberry, outlined and filled with mulberry-made pigment, is at least 45,500 years old. It was discovered deep inside a cave called Leang Tedongnge in December 2017, during an archaeological survey led by Basran Burhan, a graduate student at Griffith University and co-author of the new research. The animal in the painting resembles the wart pig, a species on the island of Sulawesi that still has a cave.
Sulawesi was already considered by some experts to be the earliest known representational art site in the world. Elsewhere on the island, a panoramic view displaying human-animal hybrids was found to be at least 43,900 years old, the same team reported in a 2019 study.
These examples of cave art, along with a portrait of another pig spotted in a cave on the south side by Griffith University graduate student and study co-author Adi Agus Octavegia, hint at rich cultures living on the Indonesian islands . The discoveries also debate whether the artists could have been Homo sapiens, or members of another extinct human species.
The Leang Tedongnge site is about 40 miles from Makassar, a bustling city of about 1.5 million people. But the cave has been virtually untouched because it is so challenging to reach.
Adam Adam Brumm, an archaeologist at Griffith University, said, “To achieve this requires a difficult forest path with a hard forest path that passes through mountainous areas and ends in a narrow cave passage, which The only entrance to the valley is. ” Author of the study. “The valley is accessible only during the dry season; The valley floor is completely filled during the wet season and residents have to move around in dugout cans. “
Dr. Brum credited local scientists and others with making the discovery possible at the cave site.
After the discovery of pig painting, the team used uranium-series dating to determine its minimum age at 4500 years. But it is possible that the painting itself may be thousands of years old because the technique only assesses the age of the mineral deposits, the spelotome, that form on the walls of the cave.
The question of who made the painting is still shrouded in mystery.
Human skeletons are 45,500 years old as never found in Sulawesi, so it is unclear if the artists were physically modern humans. The islands, now called Indonesia, were inhabited by individual hominins – those broad families to which humans belong – for a long time. Some of these hominins date to “over a million years old”, said Rashmi Shoyokongage, an archaeologist at Silpakorn University in Thailand, who was not involved in the study.
Dr. Broome and his colleagues considered that the painters were modern humans, “given the sophistication of this early representational artwork.” In addition, ancient paintings share characteristics with prehistoric art created by humans around the world, including the presence of handwriting and the use of a “twisted perspective”, depicting animals in both profile and frontal views is.
Dr. Brum says that he believes that it was even before human remains of this era were found in archaeological excavations in the area.
João Zilho, an archaeologist at the University of Barcelona who was not involved in the study, disagrees with the team’s belief that modern humans created paintings. As a co-author of the 2018 study, suggesting that Neanderthals left nonfigmatic art on the walls of Spanish caves, they think another extinct human species may have made paintings.
“Physically modern human is a physical definition,” he said. “It has nothing to do with perception, intelligence or behavior.”
Dr. “There is no evidence about the anatomy of the people doing this stuff,” Zilho said.
While it is easy to focus on the claim that these are the earliest prehistoric images ever found from people, Margaret Konki, a professor Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, said that oversees the “very broad implications” of this discovery.
Prehistoric Sulawesi had a significant contribution from his perspective to “understanding how humans can live in relation to one another” and how they are building the social world through physical and visual expressions.
While the term “oldest” has been used in the new study, Drs. Brumm and his colleagues hope to find images in Sulawesi with an even more advanced age.
“We think there is very old rock art and other evidence for human habitation in Sulawesi and that Australia is a gateway to the continent, on other islands within part of eastern Indonesia, known as the Wallian Islands,” Dr. . Brism said.
Unfortunately, time is of the essence: Indonesia’s cave art is rapidly deteriorating, which increases the possibility that the oldest paintings on Earth may fade before reopening.
Dr. “We have documented this phenomenon at almost every rock art site in the region, and monitoring by our colleagues at the local cultural heritage agency shows that the art boycott is taking place at an alarming rate,” Brum said. “This is very worrying, and given the current situation the end result is likely to be the eventual disastrous of this ice age Indonesian art, perhaps even within our lifetime.”