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New study suggests world’s oldest cave painting could be in Southeast Asia

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08.11.2018

CAVE paintings in remote mountains in Borneo have been dated to at least 40,000 years ago – much earlier than first thought – according to a study published today in Nature.

These artworks include a painting of what seems to be a local species of wild cattle, which makes it the world’s oldest example of figurative art – that is, an image that looks like the thing it is intended to represent.

This discovery adds to the mounting view that the first cave art traditions did not arise in Europe, as long believed.

SEE ALSO: How did rocks from the Grand Canyon end up 13,500km away in Australia

Remote rock art

In the 1990s, Indonesian and French archaeologists trekked into the remote interior mountains of East Kalimantan, an Indonesian province of Borneo.

Limestone mountains in East Kalimantan, Borneo. Source: Pindi Setiawan/The Conversation

In limestone caves perched atop forbidding, densely forested peaks, the team discovered a vast trove of prehistoric artworks, including thousands of hand stencils (negative outlines of human hands) and rarer paintings of animals.

Strikingly, apart from the paintings themselves, the team found little other evidence for human occupation in the caves. It seemed as though people had made long and dangerous climbs to these clifftop caves mostly to create art.

Liang Banteng, a cave art site in East Kalimantan. Source: Pindi Setiawan/The Conversation

The team proposed that the prehistoric artworks can be divided into at least two chronologically distinct phases of art production.

The first phase is characterised by hand stencils and large figurative paintings of animals that are reddish-orange in colour.

A rock painting of a banteng, a type of wild cattle from Borneo. Source: Pindi Setiawan/The Conversation

Hand stencils also characterise the later........

© Asian Correspondent