Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Sulawesi Cave Paintings


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Sulawesi Cave Paintings

Mains level: Not Much

A team of archaeologists in Indonesia has discovered what may be the world’s oldest known cave painting dating back to more than 45,000 years.

Try this PYQ:

Q.There are only two known examples of cave paintings of the Gupta period in ancient India. One of these is paintings of Ajanta caves. Where is the other surviving example of Gupta paintings?

(a) Bagh caves

(b) Ellora caves

(c) Lomas Rishi cave

(d) Nasik caves

Sulawesi Cave Paintings

  • The cave painting depicts a wild boar endemic to the Sulawesi island of Indonesia, where the painting was found.
  • The central Indonesian island, which occupies an area of over 174,000 sq. km, is situated between Asia and Australia.
  • It has a long history of human occupation.

Significance of the painting

  • The archaeologists’ note that the dated painting of the Sulawesi warty pig seems to be the world’s oldest surviving representational image of an animal.
  • The painting was made using red ochre pigment and depicts a pig with a short crest of upright hairs and a pair of horn-like facial warts in front of the eyes.
  • These pigs have been hunted by humans for tens of thousands of years and are the most commonly depicted animal in the ice age rock art of the island.
  • It suggests that they have long been used as food and form a “focus of creative thinking and artistic expression” for people of that time.

Must read:

Chapter 1 | Stone Age – Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic

How did the archaeologists date it?

  • The painting was first discovered in 2017 as part of surveys the team was carrying out with the Indonesian authorities.
  • For these painting archaeologists used a method called U-series isotope analysis, which uses calcium carbonate deposits that form naturally on the cave wall surface to determine its age.
  • They used a calcium carbonate deposit, also referred to as “cave popcorn” that had formed on the rear foot of one of the pig figures.
  • They were able to figure out a minimum age for the painting at around 45,500 years, which means the painting was made before this.

Sulawesi: Oldest human habitat

Try memorizing these Islands of the Indo-Pacific in their East-West alternations.

  • Sulawesi island contains some of the oldest directly dated rock art in the world and also some of the oldest evidence for the presence of hominins beyond the southeastern limits of the Ice Age Asian continent.
  • Hominins include modern humans, extinct human species and our immediate ancestors.
  • Homo sapiens are the first modern humans who evolved from their hominid predecessors between 200,000-300,000 years ago.
  • It is estimated that these modern humans started migrating outside of Africa some 70,000-100,000 years ago.
  • Even so, it is not yet clear as to when modern humans first colonised Sulawesi.

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