Scientists have made a new discovery of ancient paintings in the caves of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi that has rewritten a new history of art by prehistoric humans.
The newly discovered 40,000-year-old paintings are the oldest known prehistoric artworks, says researchers behind the discovery.
The researchers unearthed the incredible artworks in seven limestone caves near Maros at southern Sulawesi, a large island located east of Borneo.
The ancient paintings found in the walls of Sulawesi caves depict several animals including a unique one called “pig-deer”. The paintings also carry the outline drawn by human hands.
The scientists found that the new artwork dated back to the comparable age of the oldest-known European rock art, which were considered as the cradle of the early human cultural triumph embodied by cave painting.
Thomas Sutikna, an archeologist from University of Wollongong in Australia, says the findings that the people in Sulawesi carried the same lifestyle as their contemporaries living in Europe clearly indicates that the cave art may have emerged independently across the world , including Europe and Southeast Asia, at about the same time.
“Rock art is one of the indicators of an abstract mind of the early human… the onset of what we might believe to be one of the hallmarks of modern humans,” Sutikna said.
During the research work, the study group focused on 14 cave paintings of Sulawesi comprising of two natural depictions of animal and 12 stencils made by human hands.
The scientists found that most of the artwork was created with the help of red ochre pigment, which is used in producing the red- and mulberry-colored paintings.
The researchers used a radioactive decay method of tiny uranium quantities to ascertain the origin of the paintings. The uranium was taken in small mineral growths called “cave popcorn”, which formed on few paintings.
“It was earlier believed that Western Europe was the centerpiece of a symbolic explosion in early human artistic activity such as cave painting and other forms of image-making, including figurative art, around 40,000 years ago,” says dating expert Maxime Aubert, of Griffith University in Australia.
According to the scientists, the existence of the artworks had been known for decades but their age had never been looked into. Some dating experts had, however, estimated their age around 10,000-year-old.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Nature.