Earliest Animal Cave Art on Record Has Been Found in Indonesia, And It's Adorable - Tourism Indonesia




Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Earliest Animal Cave Art on Record Has Been Found in Indonesia, And It's Adorable


The oldest-known animal drawing in the world is a 45,500-year-old depiction of a hairy, warty pig on a cave wall in Indonesia, a new study finds.

The mulberry colored painting, drawn with the red mineral ochre, shows the profile of what is likely a Sulawesi warty pig (Sus celebensis), a wild stubby-legged beast with facial warts that can weigh up to nearly 190 pounds (85 kilograms).

These pigs "are still found there today, although in ever-dwindling numbers," said study co-lead researcher Adam Brumm, a professor of archaeology at Griffith University's Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution.

The finding provides more evidence that ancient Indonesia was a hot spot for rock art, and that "the first rock art traditions probably did not arise in ice age Europe as long supposed," Brumm told Live Science in an email. 

In December 2017, Brumm and his colleagues found at least three warty pig drawings in Leang Tedongnge Cave, on Sulawesi, an Indonesian island that's slightly larger than Florida. This cave was in a small valley now inhabited by Bugis farmers, an enthic group in Indonesia.

"There are no roads to this valley; getting there from the adjacent lowlands requires an arduous trek along a forest path that leads up into the limestone hills and ends at a narrow cave passage – this is the only entrance to the valley," Brumm said.

So, despite the valley's proximity to the large city of Makassar, "according to the people who live in this valley, no Westerners had ever set foot in the place before," said Brumm, who worked with an international team from Australia and Indonesia on the study, published online Wednesday (Jan. 13) in the journal Science Advances

Pigging out

Of the few pig drawings in the limestone cave, the most well-preserved one is the oldest. It shows a large pig – measuring about 4.5 by 1.8 feet (136 by 54 centimeters), with the outlines of two human hands painted above its rump.

The hairy, tiny-tailed porker faces two or three other pigs, which are less well-preserved and appear to be having some kind of social interaction with the giant pig.

In a nearby cave, called Leang Balangajia 1, the team spotted an even larger painted pig on the ceiling, measuring about 6.1 by 3.6 feet (187 by 110 centimetres), with four stenciled hands on it. That cave chamber has at least two other animal paintings, but they are too damaged to decipher, the researchers said.

A few anatomical clues hint that the rock art in both caves depicts adult male pigs – for instance, they're painted with impressive facial warts, which are larger in adult males than in females.

So, why were pigs popular subjects for the caves' artists?

Sulawesi warty pigs are unique to that island – they evolved there in isolation hundreds of thousands of years ago, Brumm said. Archaeological evidence suggests that humans hunted and even domesticated these pigs.

Read more: Science Alert



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