Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Wild boar cave painting in Indonesia is world’s oldest ever discovered



Wild boar cave painting in Indonesia is world’s oldest ever discovered

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A life-sized picture of a wild pig was made at least 45,500 years ago in Indonesia. AFP

Wild boar cave painting in Indonesia is world’s oldest ever discovered

Archaeologists have discovered the world’s oldest known cave painting: a life-sized picture of a wild boar that was made at least 45,500 years ago in Indonesia.

The finding described in the journal Science Advances on December 13 provides the earliest evidence of human settlement of the region.

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.

It is only accessible during the dry season because of flooding during the wet season – and members of the isolated Bugis community told the team it had never before been seen by Westerners.

Measuring 136cm by 54cm, 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 adult males of the species.

There are two hand prints above the pig’s hindquarters, and it appears to be facing two other pigs that are only partially preserved, as part of a narrative scene.

“The pig appears to be observing a fight or social interaction between two other warty pigs,” said co-author Adam Brumm.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
This undated handout photo shows the Leang Tedongnge cave in Sulawesi, Indonesia. AFP

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.

Early human migration

Aubert, a dating specialist, 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.

This makes the painting at least that age, “but it could be much older because the dating that we’re using only dates the calcite on top of it,” he explained.

“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.

The previously oldest dated rock art painting was found by the same team in Sulawesi. It depicted a group of part-human, part-animal figures hunting mammals, and was found to be at least 43,900 years old.

Cave paintings such as these also help fill in gaps about our understanding of early human migrations.

It’s known that people reached Australia 65,000 years ago, but they would probably have had to cross the islands of Indonesia, known as “Wallacea.”

This site now represents the oldest evidence of humans in Wallacea, but it’s hoped further research will help show people were in the region much earlier, which would resolve the Australia settlement puzzle.

The team believes the artwork was made by Homo sapiens, as opposed to now extinct human species like Denisovans, but cannot say this for certain.

To make handprints, the artists would have had to place their hands on a surface then spit pigment over it, and the team are hoping to try to extract DNA samples from residual saliva.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Preah Sihanouk hit with travel ban

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration has announced a temporary travel ban to and from the province, except for ambulances and trucks transporting goods. The announcement came after prime minister Hun Sen called on people in the province to travel only if necessary, and that people not

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

    The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine which was provided through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on March 2. The rest of the COVAX provided vaccines will arrive in Cambodia at a later date.

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said