World's oldest animal cave painting of a warty pig. Credit: Maxime Aubert

This Is The Worlds Oldest Cave Painting And It Was Made More Than 45,500 Years Ago

This cave painting of a warty pig predates the previous known oldest example by no less than 1500 years.

A cave painting of a pig discovered in a karst cave on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia has been recognized as the world’s oldest animal drawing. According to Science Advances, uranium-thorium dating allowed scientists to find out that the drawing was created 45,500 years ago.

The new oldest drawing of the animal was found in the Indonesian karst cave of Leang Tedongnge, in the southwest of Sulawesi. Scientists have known about the existence of this cave since the middle of the twentieth century but new impressive finds are made here regularly.

In 2017, four drawings were found here depicting Sulawesi warty pig – endemic animals of the island. One of the drawings has survived well, while the rest have almost completely disappeared over the tens of thousands of years.

Now, I need to mention that these are not the oldest examples of cave art but these are the oldest known depictions of animals. The oldest actual examples of patterns were found in South Africa in 2011 and presented by patterns of ocher lines dated to more than 73,000 years ago.

The previous oldest examples of cave paintings were once again found in one of the caves near Sulawesi and were dated to approximately 43,900 years ago. Now, scientists reported the intricate dating of an even older cave painting.

DStretch enhancement on the top image reveals the cave paintings in greater detail. On the bottom, you see a clearer example of the tracing of the paintings. Credit: Adhi Agus Oktaviana
DStretch enhancement on the top image reveals the cave paintings in greater detail. On the bottom, you see a clearer example of the tracing of the paintings. Credit: Adhi Agus Oktaviana

I believe this region in Indonesia is an unexplored treasure trove of history and we should expect many breakthrough discoveries in the upcoming years. According to the scientific team, no Westerner had set foot in these lands before their expedition in 2017.

If scientists have found this much in less than four years, who knows what else is hidden in the caves and lands of Indonesia.

Anyhow, only one of the four cave paintings has survived in full and measures 136 by 54 centimeters. Parts of the other three illustrations remain in the surrounding walls and can be seen in the video below. It seems like all paintings could have been part of a larger narrative scene as there is also a painting of a pair of hands right above the most preserved illustration.

For now, scientists have agreed to accept 45,500 years as the correct dating although they specify that the paintings could actually be much older. This is because they were only able to date the calcite deposit that formed on the rock painting. Further research could prove whether they are this old or even older.

This type of research is also necessary for the general understanding of human migration and when exactly people reached this region. By far, these rock paintings are the oldest evidence of humans there but as I said earlier, this region is mostly unexplored and scientists have high expectations for the future.

There is no confirmation as to who exactly created the paintings, whether they were Homo Sapiens or the extinct Denisovans, or else. For now, scientists have not mentioned anything about DNA but there is a high chance that they were/will be able to extract samples that will provide the necessary answers.


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Sources:

Ahmed, I. (2021, January 13). World’s oldest known cave painting found in Indonesia.
Aubert, M., Brumm, A., Ramli, M., Sutikna, T., Saptomo, E., Hakim, B., . . . Dosseto, A. (2014, October 08). Pleistocene cave art from Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Brumm Professor, A., Oktaviana PhD Candidate, A., Burhan PhD candidate, B., & Aubert Professor, M. (2021, January 13). We found the oldest known cave painting of animals in a secret Indonesian valley.
Brumm, A., Oktaviana, A., Burhan, B., Hakim, B., Lebe, R., Zhao, J., . . . Aubert, M. (2021, January 01). Oldest cave art found in Sulawesi.
Ferreira, B. (2021, January 13). Pig Painting May Be World’s Oldest Cave Art Yet, Archaeologists Say.
World’s oldest artwork uncovered in Indonesian cave: Study. (2019, December 12).

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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