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World's oldest known cave painting found and it's a life-sized picture of a wild pig. - FAD Magazine

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World’s oldest known cave painting found and it’s a life-sized picture of a wild pig.

The painting at Leang Tedongnge in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Photograph: Maxime Aubert/Griffith University/AFP/Getty Images

The world’s oldest known cave painting has been found: a life-sized picture of a wild pig that was made 45,500+ years ago in Indonesia.

The finding, described in the journal Science Advances provides the earliest evidence of human settlement of the region.

Co-author Maxime Aubert, of Australia’s Griffith University, told AFP it was found on the island of Sulawesi in 2017 by doctoral student Basran Burhan, as part of surveys the team was carrying out with Indonesian authorities. The Leang Tedongnge cave is located in a remote valley enclosed by sheer limestone cliffs, about an hour’s walk from the nearest road. It is only accessible during the dry season because of flooding during the wet season – and members of the isolated Bugis community told the team it had never before been seen by westerners.

Measuring 136cm by 54cm (53in by 21in), the Sulawesi warty pig was painted using dark red ochre pigment and has a short crest of upright hair, as well as a pair of horn-like facial warts characteristic of adult males of the species. There are two handprints above the pig’s hindquarters, and it appears to be facing two other pigs that are only partially preserved, as part of a narrative scene.

“The pig appears to be observing a fight or social interaction between two other warty pigs,” said co-author Adam Brumm.

Humans have hunted Sulawesi warty pigs for tens of thousands of years, and they are a key feature of the region’s prehistoric artwork, particularly during the ice age.

Aubert, a dating specialist, identified a calcite deposit that had formed on top of the painting, then used uranium-series isotope dating to confidently say the deposit was 45,500 years old.

This makes the painting at least that age, “but it could be much older because the dating that we’re using only dates the calcite on top of it”, he explained. “The people who made it were fully modern, they were just like us, they had all of the capacity and the tools to do any painting that they liked,” he added.

The previously oldest dated rock art painting was found by the same team in Sulawesi. It depicted a group of part-human, part-animal figures hunting mammals, and was found to be at least 43,900 years old.

The team believes the artwork was made by Homo sapiens, as opposed to previous human species. To make handprints, the artists would have had to place their hands on a surface then spit pigment over it, and the team are hoping to try to extract DNA samples from residual saliva.

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