Cave paintings found in the remote and rugged mountains of Borneo date to at least 40,000 years ago, according to a study by a group of Australian and Indonesian university researchers published Wednesday in Nature, a British science journal.
The rock art images found in karst caves in East Kalimantan, an Indonesian province, depict people engaged in various activities such as hunting and dancing, as well as animals and geometric designs.
(Photo shows cave paintings discovered in Indonesia including one believed to be of a wild cow) [The researchers' team]
The team led by Maxime Aubert, an associate professor at Griffith University, and Pindi Setiawan, a researcher at Bandung Institute of Technology, used an uranium-series analysis of calcium carbonate samples collected from cave art motifs in six sites to date them.
The oldest cave art image they dated, which is at least 40,000 years old, is a large reddish-orange figurative painting of what appears to be a species of wild cattle, possibly with a spear shaft protruding from its flank. The incomplete image was found in Lubang Jeriji Saleh, a limestone cave.
The team called it "the oldest figurative rock art image in the world," as far as they know, and "one of the earliest-known figurative representations of an animal," being comparable in age with the mammoth-ivory figurines from the Swabian region of Germany.
Previously, figurative cave paintings from the adjacent Indonesian island of Sulawesi were discovered that date to at least 35,000 years ago.
The new findings support a growing view that cave art did not arise only in Europe as long believed, they argue.
It now seems that two early cave art provinces arose "at a similar time...one in Europe and one in Indonesia at the opposite end of this ice age world," said Adam Brumm, a Griffith archaeologist involved in the study.
It is unknown whether this was due to coincidence, the result of cultural convergence, large-scale migration of a distinct Eurasian population or other factors, the study says.
(Photo shows drawings traced onto cave paintings discovered in Indonesia. The researchers say the paintings shown in the rectangle date back 40,000 years)
[The researchers' team]