Archeologists have discovered the world’s oldest known cave painting in Indonesia: a life-sized picture of a wild pig that scientists say was made at least 45,500 years ago.
The finding described in the journal Science Advances on Wednesday is thought to provide the earliest evidence of human settlement of the region.
Coauthor Maxime Aubert of Australia’s Griffith University told reporters that 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 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.
Members of the isolated Bugis community told the team that it had never before been seen by Westerners.
Measuring 136cm by 54cm, 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 hand prints above the pig’s hindquarters, and it appears to be facing two other pigs that are only partially preserved.
“The pig appears to be observing a fight or social interaction between two other warty pigs,” coauthor Adam Brumm said.
Aubert, a dating specialist, identified a calcite deposit that had formed on top of the painting, then used Uranium-series isotopes to date it.
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