Old­est known fig­u­ra­tive cave art dis­cov­ered in Bor­neo

Timeless Travels Magazine - - ARCHAEOLOGICAL NEWS -

Griffi

th Uni­ver­sity re­searchers have dated cave paint­ings in Bor­neo to as early as 40,000 years ago, show­ing that these enig­matic art­works are among the world’s old­est ex­am­ples of fig­u­ra­tive de­pic­tion.

This find­ing adds to the mount­ing view that cave art – one of the most im­por­tant in­no­va­tions in hu­man cul­tural his­tory – did not arise in Europe as long be­lieved, and that ‘ice age’ artists in South­east Asia played a key role in its de­vel­op­ment.

Since the 1990s, caves in re­mote and rugged moun­tains of East Kal­i­man­tan, an In­done­sian prov­ince of Bor­neo, have been known to con­tain pre­his­toric paint­ings, draw­ings, and other im­agery, in­clud­ing thou­sands of de­pic­tions of hu­man hands (‘sten­cils’), an­i­mals, ab­stract signs and sym­bols, and re­lated mo­tifs.

These near-in­ac­ces­si­ble art­works are now known to be far older than pre­vi­ously thought, ac­cord­ing to a study led by Grif­fith’s As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Maxime Au­bert, along with In­done­sia’s Na­tional Re­search Cen­tre for Ar­chae­ol­ogy (ARKENAS), and the Ban­dung In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (ITB).

As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Au­bert’s team re­ports Ura­ni­um­series dates ob­tained from cal­cium car­bon­ate sam­ples col­lected from the Kal­i­man­tan cave art, pro­vid­ing the first re­li­able es­ti­mates for the ap­prox­i­mate time of rock art pro­duc­tion.

“The old­est cave art im­age we dated is a large paint­ing of an uniden­ti­fied an­i­mal, prob­a­bly a species of wild cat­tle still found in the jun­gles of Bor­neo – this has a min­i­mum age of around 40,000 years and is now the ear­li­est known fig­u­ra­tive art­work,” As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Au­bert said.

The Kal­i­man­tan sten­cil art was shown to be sim­i­lar in age, sug­gest­ing that a Palae­olithic rock art tra­di­tion first ap­peared on Bor­neo be­tween about 52,000 and 40,000 years ago.

“Who the ice age artists of Bor­neo were and what hap­pened to them is a mys­tery,” said team co-leader Dr Pindi Se­ti­awan, an In­done­sian ar­chae­ol­o­gist and lec­turer at ITB.

A rock paint­ing of a wild bovid from Bor­neo

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