The Guardian reports: Paintings of wild animals and hand markings left by adults and children on cave walls in Indonesia are at least 35,000 years old, making them some of the oldest artworks known.
The rock art was originally discovered in caves on the island of Sulawesi in the 1950s, but dismissed as younger than 10,000 years old because scientists thought older paintings could not possibly survive in a tropical climate.
But fresh analysis of the pictures by an Australian-Indonesian team has stunned researchers by dating one hand marking to at least 39,900 years old, and two paintings of animals, a pig-deer or babirusa, and another animal, probably a wild pig, to at least 35,400 and 35,700 years ago respectively.
The work reveals that rather than Europe being at the heart of an explosion of creative brilliance when modern humans arrived from Africa, the early settlers of Asia were creating their own artworks at the same time or even earlier.
Archaeologists have not ruled out that the different groups of colonising humans developed their artistic skills independently of one another, but an enticing alternative is that the modern human ancestors of both were artists before they left the African continent.
“Our discovery on Sulawesi shows that cave art was made at opposite ends of the Pleistocene Eurasian world at about the same time, suggesting these practices have deeper origins, perhaps in Africa before our species left this continent and spread across the globe,” said Dr Maxime Aubert, an archaeologist at the University of Wollongong. [Continue reading…]