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Significance of world’s oldest cave painting discovered in Indonesia’

  • Category
    Art and culture
  • Published
    19th Jan, 2021

A team of archaeologists has discovered what may be the world's oldest known cave painting dating back to more than 45,000 years.

Context

A team of archaeologists has discovered what may be the world's oldest known cave painting dating back to more than 45,000 years.

About

Key features of the painting

  • The cave painting depicts a wild boar endemic to the Sulawesi island of Indonesia, where the painting was found.
  • It dates back to more than 45,000 years.
  • The painting was made using red ochre pigment.
  • These 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 painting was found in the Leang Tedongnge cave.
    • The cave is situated in a remote valley surrounded by limestone cliffs, and is only accessible during the dry season because of flooding during the wet season.

The Sulawesi island

  • Sulawesi is also known as Celebes.
  • It is one of the four Greater Sunda Islands which are recognized as Borneo, Java, Sulawesi and Sumatra.
  • It is governed by Indonesia. 
  • The central Indonesian island is situated between Asia and Australia and has a long history of human occupation.
  • It occupies an area of over 174,000 sq. km.

Dating method

  • 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.
  • They used a calcium carbonate deposit, also referred to as “cave popcorn” that had formed on the rear foot of one of the pig figures.

What is the significance of the cave painting?

  • It shows the oldest evidence for the presence of hominins beyond the southeastern limits of the Ice Age Asian continent.
  • It depicts the food habit of Hominins which includes the boars as food.
  • The painting is a form of creative thinking and artistic expression at that time.

Hominins

  • 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.
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