Archaeologists in Indonesia have found what is believed to be the oldest known cave art. The painting was found along the rear wall of a cave on a high ledge, in a large, little known valley. The cave painting shows a pig, likely an adult male Sulawesi warty pig. The painting is at least 45,500 years old!
It can be hard for scientists to determine how old a cave drawing is. But in this case, the painting was covered by a small deposit of calcium carbonate over the rear foot of the pig. These deposits are easier to date and were found to be at least 45,500 years old. Since the painting is under the deposit, we can assume the painting is even older than the calcium deposit that developed over it.
The painting was found in a lush valley on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. The cave was only a few feet above the floor of the valley and could be entered by climbing up a small rock ledge. The area has many limestone caves where other cave art has been found.
The painting, which measures about 6-feet long by 4-feet high, shows a pig with a tufts of hair and a pair of horn-like facial warts in front of the eyes. This is characteristic of the Salawesi warty pig which is native to the area. The pig was probably an important food source for ancient people who lived in the area.
The artist used red ochre pigment from iron-rich rock and even left behind a pair of handprints (look just above and to the left of the pig’s rear end). To the right of the pig, several feet away, are two more pig paintings but sadly, only the head art remains.
Researchers are hopeful that much older rock art may be found in the area in the near future.
“We have found and documented many rock art images in Sulawesi that still await scientific dating. We expect the early rock art of this island to yield even more significant discoveries.”