WASHINGTON: Prehistoric paintings at least 40,000 years old that depict animals – including one known as a “pig-deer” – and the outline of human hands in seven caves on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi are rewriting the history of art.
Scientists said on Wednesday they used a highly precise method to determine the antiquity of the paintings.
They found the artwork was comparable in age to the oldest-known rock art from Europe, long thought to be the cradle of the early human cultural achievement embodied by cave painting.
“It was previously thought that Western Europe was the centerpiece of a symbolic explosion in early human artistic activity such as cave painting and other forms of image-making, including figurative art, around 40,000 years ago,” said dating expert Maxime Aubert of Australia’s Griffith University.
The fact that people in Sulawesi were doing the same things as contemporaries in Europe indicates cave art may have emerged independently at about the same time around the world, including Europe and Southeast Asia, added archeologist Thomas Sutikna of Australia’s University of Wollongong.
“Rock art is one of the indicators of an abstract mind of the past human, the onset of what we might consider to be one of the hallmarks of ‘modern’ humans,” Sutikna added.