Red bull drawn in In­done­sian cave dated to 40,000 years ago

Sun.Star Pampanga - - SCIENCE! -

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — Sci­en­tists have found the old­est known ex­am­ple of an an­i­mal draw­ing: a red sil­hou­ette of a bull-like beast on the wall of an In­done­sian cave.

The sketch is at least 40,000 years old, slightly older than sim­i­lar an­i­mal paint­ings found in fa­mous caves in France and Spain. Un­til a few years ago, ex­perts be­lieved Eu­rope was where our an­ces­tors started draw­ing an­i­mals and other fig­ures.

But the age of the draw­ing re­ported Wed­nes­day in the jour­nal Na­ture, along with pre­vi­ous dis­cov­er­ies in South­east Asia, sug­gest that fig­u­ra­tive draw­ing ap­peared in both con­ti­nents about the same time.

The new find­ings fuel dis­cus­sions about whether his­tor­i­cal or evo­lu­tion­ary events prompted this near­si­mul­ta­ne­ous “burst of hu­man cre­ativ­ity,” said lead au­thor Maxime Au­bert, an ar­chae­ol­o­gist and geo­chemist at Grif­fith Univer­sity in Aus­tralia.

The re­mote lime­stones caves on Bor­neo have been known to con­tain pre­his­toric draw­ings since the 1990s. To reach them, Au­bert and his team used ma­chetes to hack through thick jun­gle in a ver­dant cor­ner of the is­land.

Strap­ping on min­ers’ hel­mets to il­lu­mi­nate the dark­ness, they walked and crawled through miles of caves dec­o­rated with hun­dreds of an­cient de­signs, look­ing for art­work that could be dated. They needed to find spe­cific min­eral de­posits on the draw­ings to de­ter­mine their age with tech­nol­ogy that mea­sures de­cay of the el­e­ment ura­nium.

“Most of the paint­ings we ac­tu­ally can’t sam­ple,” said Au­bert.

Au­bert and his fel­low re­searchers re­ported in 2014 on cave art from the neigh­bor­ing In­done­sian is­land of Su­lawesi. They dated hand sten­cils, cre­ated by blow­ing red dye through a tube to cap­ture the out­line of a hand pressed against rock, to al­most 40,000 years ago.

Now, with the Bor­neo cave art, the sci­en­tists are able to con­struct a rough time­line of how art de­vel­oped in the area. In ad­di­tion to the bull, which is about 5 feet (1.5 me­ters) wide, they dated red- and pur­ple-col­ored hand sten­cils and cave paint­ings of hu­man scenes.

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