Oldest animal cave drawings may go back 52,000 years

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"The location of these ancient paintings of animals and hand stencils perhaps marks the passage of the first modern humans as they moved through mainland Asia and out into the islands of Wallacea, lying between the mainland and continental Sahul (Australia and New Guinea which were joined at this time)", O'Connor told in an email. It may represent a type of wild cattle.CreditCreditLuc-Henri FageOn the wall of a cave deep in the jungles of Borneo, there is an image of a thick-bodied, spindly-legged animal, drawn in reddish ocher.It may be a crude image. "We are planning archaeological excavation in those caves in order to find more information about these unknown artists". It was dated approximately 35,400 years old.

We know, he said, that humans arrived in the region roughly 70,000 to 60,000 years ago - yet, curiously, there seems to be no cave art from those early millennia. They needed to find specific mineral deposits on the drawings to determine their age with technology that measures decay of the element uranium, according to the AP.

In the cave on the island of Kalimantan in Indonesia, archaeologists have discovered possibly the earliest cave paintings.

"I have no doubt that they have dated painting to at least 40,000 years at their oldest site, and this is an exciting result as it shows that cave painting wasn't an isolated event. but that it had a wide geographical distribution", Prof Pike explained. Many cave paintings lack the carbon required to date them.Moreover, the half-life of radioactive carbon is only 5,730 years.

It is noted that in the mountain caves of the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan was discovered figurative paintings, whose age is at least 40 thousand years.

"But there are some doubts if their dated sample overlies the figurative art.it appears to lie over some pigment 15cm away from the animal figure, and while it once might have formed part of this figure (which is very weathered), they have not demonstrated it is part of it".

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Two other red-orange hand stencils from the same cave have minimum ages of 37,200 years, while a third has a maximum age of 51,800 years, suggesting that a Palaeolithic rock art tradition first appeared on Borneo between about 52,000 and 40,000 years ago.

However, while we now know that humans started making figurative art at nearly the same time in two different parts of the world (western Europe and Borneo), we don't really know who these artists were. The oldest fossils of Homo sapiens, found in Morocco, are 300,000 years old.

Figurative art is a hallmark of this period in human history.

Dating also indicated that a major change occurred within this culture around 20,000 years ago, giving rise to a new rock art style (including rare portrayals of humans) at a time when the global ice age climate was at its most extreme. "Initially, humans made figurative painting of large animals and they later start depicting the human world", said study co-lead researcher Maxime Aubert, an archaeologist and geochemist at Griffith University in Australia. Aside from their artwork, no one has found a trace of the people who once lived there.

Aubert said they're trying to see if they can extract any DNA, but acknowledges "it's a long shot". "We want to know who those people were. It's also like they're still talking to us today".

The ice age region of France and Spain has always been seen as the global centre of cave art development owing to the stunning animal paintings known from this area.

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