Archaeologists have discovered what can be described as the oldest known “cave painting” in the world, representing a life-size painting of a wild boar dating back 45,500 years ago, and was found in a cave in Indonesia.
The discovery, which was described in Science Advances on Wednesday, provides the closest evidence of human settlement in the area.
Co-author Maxime Obert of Griffith University in Australia told AFP that Ph.D. student Sarran Burhan was found in the “Ling Tidungung” cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in 2017, as part of surveys conducted by the team with the Indonesian authorities.
The cave is located in a remote valley surrounded by cliffs of limestone, about an hour’s walk from the nearest road, and can only be reached during the dry season due to floods during the rainy season.
The size of the drawing is 136 cm by 54 cm, and the Sulawesi pig is painted using a dark red dye and has a short top of erect hair, in addition to a pair of warts on the face that resemble the characteristic horn of an adult male of the type.
And co-author Adam Brum said: “It seems that the pig is observing a fight or social interaction between pigs of the same species,” according to what the British newspaper The Guardian reported.
Sulawesi pigs have been hunted by humans for tens of thousands of years, a key feature of prehistoric artworks in the area, particularly during the Ice Age.
Ebert, a historian, identified the calcite deposits that formed on top of the painting, using radioisotopes, and concluded that the painting dated back to 45,500 years ago.
It is noteworthy that the oldest previously dated rock art painting was found by the same team in Sulawesi, and it depicted a group of partial human figures and part animals during the hunt, and it was found that the age of the painting is at least 43900 years.
Cave drawings like these also help bridge gaps around our understanding of early human migrations.
People are known to have arrived in Australia 65,000 years ago, but they may have had to cross the islands of Indonesia, known as “Wallacia”.
The site now represents the oldest evidence of humans in Wallacia, but it is hoped that more research will help show that people have been in the area much earlier, which will solve the mystery of settlement in Australia.
The team believes that the artwork was made by Homo sapiens, unlike now-extinct human species such as the Denisovans, but this cannot be said for sure.