By Adam Brumm and Maxime Aubert, Griffith University and Pindi Setiawan, Bandung Technology Institute
Cave paintings in the remote mountains of Borneo have been dated for at least 40,000 years, long before what was thought, according to a study published in Nature Last week.
These works include a painting of what appears to be a local species of wild cattle, which makes it the oldest example of the world of figurative art, that is, an image that looks like what it intends to represent.
This discovery adds to the assembly view that the earliest rock art traditions have not arisen in Europe, the time it was being raised.
Remote rock art
In the 1990s, Indonesian and French archeologists walked into the remote mountains of the interior of eastern Kalimantan, an Indonesian province of Borneo.
In the limestone caves located at the top of the peak of densely sketched peaks, the team discovered a wide variety of prehistoric works, including thousands of manual stencils (negative contours of human hands) and rarer animal paintings.
Surprisingly, apart from the paintings themselves, the team found little other evidence for human occupation in the caves. It seemed that people had made dangerous and long climbs to these chains of chains, especially to create art.
The team proposed that prehistoric works could be divided into at least two phases chronologically different from artistic production.
The first phase is characterized by stencils by hand and large figurative paintings of reddish-orange animals.
Hand styles also characterize the later phase, but these patterns (and associated images) tend to be dark purple ("blackberry"). During this phase, artists also painted designs such as tattoos on the wrists, palms and fingers of some styles, in some cases, hand stencils were intertwined with motifs similar to branches or vines.
Finally, the artists began to portray human figures in their art (see image above).
This surprising discovery raised many questions. What years had the art of the cave? Who created and why?
In the early 2000s the French-Indonesian team dated part of a cave rug formation that grew on top of a hand stencil.
The quality of the sample they dated was not ideal, but their results involved an age of at least 10,000 years for the underlying work.
New dates for ancient art
They now believe that Borneo's works of art are much older than previously thought, according to investigations conducted with colleagues from the National Center for Archaeological Research (ARKENAS) in Jakarta and other Indonesian scientists.
In our article, we inform the dates of the uranium series obtained from calcium carbonate samples collected in association with the rock art of six East Kalimantan sites. This provides the first reliable estimates for the approximate time of rock art production.
The oldest image of rock art is a large reddish orange paint of an animal, similar to the wild banteng that is still found in the forests of Borneo. It has a minimum age of 40,000 years.
To the extent that we can verify that they are the first figurative works dated from the Earth.
The staggered red-eye artwork was similar in age, suggesting that the first rock art style appeared between 52,000 and 40,000 years ago.
Older mulberry paints, including decorated hand stencils, date back approximately 21,000-20,000 years ago. A human mulberry figure has been created for at least 13,600 years.
Our dating implies that there was an important change about 20,000 years ago within the cave culture of Borneo art. It was during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), a time when the ice sheets were in its greatest extent and the ice age was the most extreme.
Maybe life in this tough world stimulates new forms of cultural innovation.
Or perhaps the mountains of eastern Kalimantan have become a refuge for people fleeing the environmental changes generated by the LGM, increasing the size of the population and instigating the social pressures that have provoked new forms of intergroup communication, including art.
In 2014 we revealed that a similar rock art appeared in the caves of Maros de Sulawesi around 40,000 years ago.
Sulawesi is adjacent to Borneo and has never been connected to the Eurasian continent. This great island is a vital step between Asia and Australia.
Our latest discovery suggests that rock art extends from Borneo to Sulawesi and other new worlds beyond Eurasia, perhaps arriving with the first people to colonize Australia.
Two areas of Palaeolithic artistic innovation
The geo-ice region of France and Spain has been seen as the global center for cave development due to impressive animal paintings known in this area.
But while Borneo was the third largest island in the world, most of the ice age was connected by low sea levels to the vast continental region of Eurasia. Borneo and Europe were opposite extremities of this land mass.
Therefore, it now seems that two provinces of precocious rock art existed in a similar time in the remote corners of Paleolithic Eurasia: one in Indonesia and one in Europe.
A recent study suggests that the Neanderthals were doing rock art in Spain 65,000 years ago, but there are good reasons to question this statement.
Of course, it is possible that the first modern human rock arose in Africa and was introduced in Eurasia by subsequent migrations of our species.
Alternatively, Indonesia and Europe can be separate areas of innovation where rock art on ice has emerged independently; If so, it is possible that early cave paintings can be found in Southeast Asia more than in Europe.
Adhi Agus Oktaviana, a researcher in archeology and rock art of ARKENAS, contributed to this article.
This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original article here.
TNL Editor: David Green (@DavidPeterGreen)
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