14 January 2021 04:32
Life-sized image of a wild pig discovered in 2017 inside the Leang Tedongnge cave is estimated to be at least 45,500 years old. Archaeologists have discovered the world's oldest known cave painting: a life-sized picture of a wild pig that was made at least 45,500 years ago in Indonesia. Co-author Maxime Aubert of Australia's Griffith University told the AFP news agency the work was found on the island of Sulawesi in 2017 by doctoral student Basran Burhan, as part of surveys the team was carrying out with Indonesian authorities. The Leang Tedongnge cave is located in a remote valley enclosed by sheer limestone cliffs, about an hour's walk from the nearest road. Measuring 136 by 54 centimetres (53 by 21 inches) the Sulawesi warty pig was painted using dark red ochre pigment and has a short crest of upright hair, as well as a pair of horn-like facial warts characteristic of the species' adult males.
Humans have hunted Sulawesi warty pigs for tens of thousands of years, and they are a key feature of the region's prehistoric artwork, particularly during the Ice Age. Aubert identified a calcite deposit that had formed on top of the painting, then used uranium-series isotope dating to confidently say the deposit was 45,500 years old. The Leang Tedongnge cave is located in a remote valley enclosed by sheer limestone cliffs, about an hour's walk from the nearest road [File: Adhi Agus Oktaviana/Griffith University via AFP] "The people who made it were fully modern, they were just like us, they had all of the capacity and the tools to do any painting that they liked," he added. It is known that people reached Australia 65,000 years ago, but they would probably have had to cross the islands of Indonesia, known as "Wallacea." Archaeologists have discovered the world's oldest known cave painting: a life-sized picture of a wild pig that was made at least 45,500 years ago in Indonesia. Co-author Maxime Aubert of Australia's Griffith University said it was found on the island of Sulawesi in 2017 by doctoral student Basran Burhan, as part of surveys the team was carrying out with Indonesian authorities. The Leang Tedongnge cave is located in a remote valley enclosed by sheer limestone cliffs, about an hour's walk from the nearest road.
And, according to a recent archaeological paper, that is how long ago artists on an island in modern-day Indonesia were in a cave, painting an adorable rendering of a pig. If their estimations are correct, that pig portrait could be the oldest known example of a figurative drawing, meaning a form of art that attempts to depict the real world rather than designs or patterns. According to the paper published in the journal Science Advances, there is a purplish pig drawn in the Leang Tedongnge cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi that can be traced back at least 45,500 years through a method known as uranium-series dating. The pig drawing was initially discovered in December 2017 during an archaeological survey in Sulawesi's limestone karst caves, which are known for being filled with prehistoric art. Notably, it is possible that the painting is even older than 45,500 years old; the uranium-series dating only measured the age of a mineral deposit known as speleothem on the cave walls.
The picture found in the Leang Tedongnge cave, an hour's walk from the nearest road in a remote valley surrounded by sheer limestone cliffs. © Photo: Science Advances Figurative paintings of pigs at Leang Tedongnge The discovery, some 136cm by 54cm (53in by 21in) is painted with dark red ochre pigment and includes a short crest of upright hair along with a pair of horn-like facial warts, a distinctive feature of adult males of the Sulawesi warty pig. "The pig appears to be observing a fight or social interaction between two other warty pigs," said co-author Adam Brumm. Humans have hunted this type of pig for tens of thousands of years and these animals are a key feature of the region's prehistoric art, especially during the Ice Age. "The people who made it were fully modern, they were just like us, they had all of the capacity and the tools to do any painting that they liked," explained Maxime Aubert, an archaeological dating specialist. According to Aubert, laboratory analysis shows that the picture is at least 45,500 years old, "but it could be much older because the dating that we're using only dates the calcite on top of it". The oldest dated cave painting was found by the same archaeological team in Sulawesi. An ancient picture showing three pigs may be the oldest drawing of animals in the world AA Oktaviana Stunning cave paintings discovered in Indonesia include what might be the oldest known depictions of animals on the planet, dating back at least 45,000 years. The paintings of three pigs, alongside several hand stencils, were discovered in the limestone cave of Leang Tedongnge on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Even local people were unaware of the cave sites' existence until their discovery in 2017 by Adam Brumm at Griffith University, Australia, and his team. Sulawesi is known to contain some of the world's oldest cave art, but the new paintings may predate all other examples so far discovered on the island. Brumm and his colleagues used a technique called uranium-series dating to analyse a mineral formation that overlapped part of the image, and that must have formed after the cave art was produced. "It adds to the evidence that the first modern human cave art traditions did not arise in ice age Europe, as long assumed, but at an earlier point in the human journey," says Brumm. They appear to be Sulawesi warty pigs (Sus celebensis), a short-legged wild boar that is endemic to the island and is characterised by its distinctive facial warts. These pigs appear in younger cave art across the region, and archaeological digs show that they were the most commonly hunted game species on Sulawesi for thousands of years. "The frequent portrayal of these wild pigs in art offers hints at a long-term human interest in the behavioural ecology of this local species, and perhaps its spiritual values in the hunting culture," says Brumm. Early humans presumably crossed these islands to reach Australia – perhaps as early as 65,000 years ago – after migrating out of Africa.