All About History




Indonesia, c.45,500 years old

In 2017, the doctoral student Basran Burhan made an amazing discovery in the Leang Tedongnge cave, while he was part of a team carrying out surveys with the Indonesian authoritie­s. In the cave, located in a remote valley on the island of Sulawesi, he found a drawing of a wild pig with horn-like facial warts, which has been estimated to have been made at least 45,500 years ago, making it the world’s oldest piece of figurative art (previously thought to have come from France and Spain 35,000 years ago, and showing that the first ‘sophistica­ted’ art is actually non-european). The drawing measures 136cm x 54cm and was painted using dark red ochre pigment. There are two hand prints above the pig, and it seems like it was facing two other pigs which are not fully preserved. The picture is only accessible during the dry season due to flooding during the wet season. Members of the Bugis community claimed that it had never before been seen by a Westerner.

The painting adds a new dimension to our history of how people migrated. It is thought that people reached Australia 65,000 years ago, but they would have had to cross the islands of Indonesia (known as “Wallacea”), on their way. The Leang Tedongnge Cave is part of the Maros-pangkep karst in Indonesia, a cave complex rich with some of the other earliest pieces of figurative art, such as a 43,900-yearold hunting scene in another cave, showing part-animal, part-human figures hunting wild boar and bison with ropes and spears. It is the earliest evidence of man’s ability to imagine narrative stories, and concepts not visible in the natural world.

 ?? ?? Paintings from a similar cave on the remote Muna Island, southeast of Sulawesi
Paintings from a similar cave on the remote Muna Island, southeast of Sulawesi
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