Oldest known animal drawing found in cave
WASHINGTON — Scientists have found the oldest known example of an animal drawing: a red silhouette of a bull-like beast on the wall of a remote 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 near-simultaneous “burst of human creativity,” said lead author Maxime Aubert, an archaeologist and geochemist at Griffith University in Australia.
The remote limestone 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 in order to determine their age with technology that measures decay of the element uranium.