Some cave paintings that are at least 40,000 years old have been found in Sulawesi, Indonesia, and the discovery of these cave paintings and their dating thereof is transforming the idea that earliest cave paintings must have started in Europe. In analyzing how most of the paintings were made on the cave, researchers found that the earliest humans must have pressed their hands on the walls of the cave walls and ceilings and then blow paints around the hands.
There are also drawn or painted figures of ancient animals that must have been found at that time around the Sulawesi island of Indonesia, and there are paintings of human figures as well. Researchers identified a dwarfed bovid among the paintings, and hoofed animals were also identified amongst the array on various cave walls and ceilings.
Dr. Maxime Aubert of the Griffith University of Queensland in Australia dated most of the paintings found in Maros in Souathern Sulawesi, and he opines that “the minimum age for the outline of the hand in one of the caves is 39,900 years old, which makes it the oldest hand stencil in the world. Next to it is a pig that has a minimum age of 35,400 years old, and this is one of the oldest figurative depictions in the world, if not the oldest one.”
Some other cave paintings found in Bone, a regency 100 km north of Maros cannot be immediately dated due to the fact that the stalactite-like growths used to determine their ages are not there – they do not occur. However, some of those found in Sulawesi have been dated to be 27,000 years old and others even as early as 13,000 years old. Although the earliest evidence of ancient cave paintings had been found in Spain and France, and had encouraged many researchers to believe that such art paintings started in Europe, this view is now being challenged with other discoveries in other parts of the world, like the Sulawesi finding.
According to Prof. Chris Stringer, Natural History Museum, London, “it’s a really important find. It enables us to get away from this Eurocentric view of a creative explosion that was special to Europe and did not develop in other parts of the world until much later.” And with the discovery that the 40,000 years cave paintings in Sulawesi may have developed in Africa, he states “that’s kind of my gut feeling. The basis for this art was there 60,000 years ago. It may even have been there in Africa before 60,000 years ago and it spread with modern humans.”
And Dr. Adam Brumm, who was part of the Sulawesi expedition seems to agree with this, “if Sulawesi is anything to go by, where cave art was first recorded over half a century ago but was assumed to be young, a crucial part of the human story could be right under our noses.”