The Jakarta Post
A team of researchers have found prehistoric cave images in Maros, South Sulawesi, that they say were drawn almost 40,000 years ago.
In the form of 12 human hand stencils and two figurative animals, one image resembles a babirusa (pig-deer). The paintings are comparable to the oldest cave painting found in the El Castillo cave, northern Spain.
The research team, consisting of several archeologists led by Maxime Aubert and Adam Brumm of Griffith University, Queensland, Australia, found one of the hand stencils on the cave wall in Maros was drawn at least 39,900 years ago, one of the oldest cave paintings in the world.
They have detailed their findings in the international science journal Nature, which was published on Thursday.
Aubert said the finds went against the common view that the process of human modernization originated from Europe with the El Castillo paintings, thought to be drawn at least 40,800 years ago.
'Prior to this study, there was belief that modern humans, like our species, became truly modern in Europe. Now we can say this isn't true. We have cave paintings in Southeast Asia that are at least in the same age as cave paintings in France and Spain,' said Aubert on Thursday during a conference.
Brumm concurred, saying that 'one of the most important implications of the finding is that the ability to create art may not have come from Europe but from Africa or Asia.'
He said science was entering a new era of understanding about the minds and cultures of ancient humans in Asia, especially in Indonesia.
The research, which started in 2011, observed hand markings and two figurative animal drawings from seven caves in Maros, around 40-60 kilometers from South Sulawesi's capital, Makassar. The oldest is a hand stencil located in Timpuseng cave with a minimum age of 39,900 years.
The babirusa painting, located next to the oldest hand stencil, was made at least 35,400 years ago. It was among the earliest dated figurative depictions worldwide, the researchers said.
Aubert explained that the paintings were made using various techniques. Homo sapiens, the species of modern humans, probably made the hand stencils by pressing their hands on cave walls that had been covered with paint, while the larger, more detailed wall paintings were probably made by fine brush.
Brumm added that another method for the hand stencils was by blowing paint on a hand already placed on a cave wall.
Muhammad Ramli, an archeologist at Makassar's Archaeological Heritage Preservation Center, who is also on the team, said the paintings were first discovered in 1950, but studies on their age, using uranium-series dating, had only started in 2011.
Brumm added that the method was much more accurate than the carbon dating method commonly used in archeology. The uranium series method can calculate paintings up to 600,000 years ago.
'Ideally, we would've liked to have done both methods, but unfortunately we did not find any organic substances that are required for carbon-14 dating,' he said. (ask)
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