Scientists find oldest known cave art depicting recognizable objects

Archeologists have discovered the world’s oldest known cave painting of animals — a life-sized picture of a wild pig that was made at least 45,500 years ago on a cave wall in Indonesia.

The artwork was found along the rear wall of a pristine limestone cave called Leang Tedongnge in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. It is suspected to be the world’s oldest known example of a human-made illustration depicting a recognizable object. Along with a pair of hands, the rock art — made using a mineral-pigment called ochre — shows three wild boars native to Sulawesi.

“It shows a pig with a short crest of upright hairs and a pair of horn-like facial warts in front of the eyes, a characteristic feature of adult male Sulawesi warty pigs,” says Adam Brumm, co-leader of the research team. “Painted using red ochre pigment, the pig appears to be observing a fight or social interaction between two other warty pigs.”

While it’s quite difficult to figure out how old a cave painting like this may be, the scientists were lucky because a small deposit of calcium carbonate had formed over the rear foot of one of the pictured pigs. These deposits are somewhat easier to date, and since the painting was obviously there first, the scientists could estimate a minimum age for the human handiwork.

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Scientists find oldest known cave art depicting recognizable objects

Archeologists have discovered the world’s oldest known cave painting of animals — a life-sized picture of a wild pig that was made at least 45,500 years ago on a cave wall in Indonesia.

The artwork was found along the rear wall of a pristine limestone cave called Leang Tedongnge in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. It is suspected to be the world’s oldest known example of a human-made illustration depicting a recognizable object. Along with a pair of hands, the rock art — made using a mineral-pigment called ochre — shows three wild boars native to Sulawesi.

“It shows a pig with a short crest of upright hairs and a pair of horn-like facial warts in front of the eyes, a characteristic feature of adult male Sulawesi warty pigs,” says Adam Brumm, co-leader of the research team. “Painted using red ochre pigment, the pig appears to be observing a fight or social interaction between two other warty pigs.”

While it’s quite difficult to figure out how old a cave painting like this may be, the scientists were lucky because a small deposit of calcium carbonate had formed over the rear foot of one of the pictured pigs. These deposits are somewhat easier to date, and since the painting was obviously there first, the scientists could estimate a minimum age for the human handiwork.

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