World's oldest cave art found showing humans and pig

06-07-2024 12:56 PM

Ammon News - The oldest example of figurative cave art has been discovered in the Indonesian Island of Sulawesi by Australian and Indonesian scientists.

The painting of a wild pig and three human-like figures is at least 51,200 years old, more than 5,000 years older than the previous oldest cave art.

The discovery pushes back the time that modern humans first showed the capacity for creative thought.

Prof Maxime Aubert from Griffith University in Australia told BBC News that the discovery would change ideas about human evolution.

“The painting tells a complex story. It is the oldest evidence we have for storytelling. It shows that humans at the time had the capacity to think in abstract terms,” he said.

The painting shows a pig standing still with its mouth partly open and at least three human-like figures.

The largest human figure has both arms extended and appears to be holding a rod. The second is immediately in front of the pig with its head next to its snout. It also seems to be holding a stick, one end of which may be in contact with the pig’s throat. The last human-like figure seems to be upside-down with its legs facing up and splayed outwards. It has one hand reaching towards and seemingly touching the pig’s head.

The team of scientists was led by Adhi Agus Oktaviana, an Indonesian rock art specialist from the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) in Jakarta. He says that that narrative storytelling was a crucial part of early human culture in Indonesia from a very early point in time.

“Humans have probably been telling stories for much longer than 51,200 years, but as words do not fossilise we can only go by indirect proxies like depictions of scenes in art – and the Sulawesi art is now the oldest such evidence by far that is known to archaeology,” he said.

The first evidence for drawing were found on rocks in the Blombos Caves in southern Africa and dates back to between 75,000 to 100,000 years ago. These consist of geometric patterns.

The new painting, in the limestone cave of Leang Karampuang in the Maros-Pangkep region of South Sulawesi, shows representational art – an abstract representation of the world around the person or people that painted it.

It therefore represents an evolution in the thought processes in our species that gave rise to art and science.


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