Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Leang Karampuang Cave is the World’s Oldest Cave Art  


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: About Leang Karampuang Cave

Mains level: Key features of the Cave Paintings

Why in the News?

  • A cave painting discovered in the limestone cave of Leang Karampuang on Sulawesi Island, Indonesia, dates back at least 51,200 years.
    • The painting features a scene with three part-human, part-animal figures interacting with a wild pig, depicted in red pigment.
Study Details:

  • Published in the journal Nature, the study titled ‘Narrative cave art in Indonesia by 51,200 years ago’ used a new dating technique to determine the age of the artwork.
  • The study involved 23 researchers from Griffith University, Southern Cross University, and the Indonesian National Research and Innovation Agency.

Use of Uranium-based Dating:

  • A new dating technique utilizes uranium series (U-series) analysis on calcite deposits above cave art.
  • The laser-based analysis measures uranium-thorium ratios to accurately date paintings, highlighting significant age revisions for cave art in Sulawesi.

About Leang Karampuang Cave

  • Leang Karampuang Cave is situated in the Maros-Pangkep karst region of South Sulawesi, Indonesia.
  • The cave is renowned for its ancient rock art and archaeological findings, providing insights into early human civilization in the region.
  • It features some of the oldest known hand stencils and paintings of animals, believed to be created by early humans. 

Key features of the Cave Paintings:

  • A painted scene depicting humans interacting with a pig on the cave wall.
  • The artwork features a pig standing upright alongside three smaller human-like figures, all painted in a single shade of dark red pigment.
  • This painting predates the cave art found in El Castillo, Spain, dating back around 40,800 years ago, marking it as older than European cave paintings.

Significance of the Painting

  • According to researchers, the figures in the painting depict dynamic action, suggesting a narrative or story being told.
    • The discovery pushes back the origin of figurative art among Homo sapiens, indicating a rich history of storytelling through visual art in early human societies.
  • While Neanderthals began cave markings earlier, around 75,000 years ago, these were primarily non-figurative.
  • The Sulawesi cave art suggests an advanced cultural and artistic development among early humans, predating similar European art by millennia.
Contemporary Period in the Indian Subcontinent:

  • Homo sapiens had already migrated to various parts of the Indian subcontinent by this time. 
  • Evidence suggests human habitation in India dates back to at least 70,000 years ago, with notable archaeological sites like Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh showing signs of early human activity and rock art.



[2017] The painting of Bodhisattva Padmapani is one of the most famous and oft-illustrated paintings at

(a) Ajanta

(b) Badami

(c) Bagh

(d) Ellora 


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