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 one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Quarantine site in north Phnom Penh inaugurated

    A four-building quarantine centre in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district was formally inaugurated on January 6. The centre can house up to 500 people, according to Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng. At the inauguration ceremony, Sreng said the municipal hall had cooperated with the Ministry

  • ‘Beware of WhatsApp fraudsters’

    The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications warned members of the public who use WhatsApp to vigilantly guard against a new trick employed by hackers that involves the use of six-digit codes sent to potential victims via the popular messaging app. The ministry said hackers could