Research ArticleANTHROPOLOGY

Oldest cave art found in Sulawesi

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Science Advances  13 Jan 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 3, eabd4648
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd4648

Abstract

Indonesia harbors some of the oldest known surviving cave art. Previously, the earliest dated rock art from this region was a figurative painting of a Sulawesi warty pig (Sus celebensis). This image from Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4 in the limestone karsts of Maros-Pangkep, South Sulawesi, was created at least 43,900 years ago (43.9 ka) based on Uranium-series dating. Here, we report the Uranium-series dating of two figurative cave paintings of Sulawesi warty pigs recently discovered in the same karst area. The oldest, with a minimum age of 45.5 ka, is from Leang Tedongnge. The second image, from Leang Balangajia 1, dates to at least 32 ka. To our knowledge, the animal painting from Leang Tedongnge is the earliest known representational work of art in the world. There is no reason to suppose, however, that this early rock art is a unique example in Island Southeast Asia or the wider region.

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