Cave paintings in Indonesia have now been dated, revealing them to be the oldest such paintings in the world. Cave paintings are a fascinating part of human history - revealing the first attempts at artistic expression, and the things that were most important to our earliest ancestors. Cave paintings have been discovered all over the globe, and studying this primitive art has revealed surprising similarities worldwide.

Until recently, the common belief was the cave painting originated in Europe, where some of the best known and oldest examples of the form have been discovered. It was assumed that this skill then traveled around the globe, but a new discovery in Borneo may paint a very different story...


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The paintings in question had been discovered previously, however, they have only now been dated by researchers using uranium series analysis. The results of this analysis show that the oldest of these paintings dates back to at least 40,000 years ago - but may be even older, possibly up to 52,000 years ago. The oldest painting depicts a wild cow, with newer paintings in the same cave showing handprints and human figures. The cow is now the oldest known cave painting in the world.

This new information proves that these paintings were being created at the same time as the earliest known cave paintings in Spain, Italy and France - which casts doubt on the previously held theories that this kind of prehistoric art originated in Europe and spread across the world from there. It seems that this kind of painting actually began to emerge in different areas of the world around the same time, instead. The study of these paintings, published in Nature, doesn't speculate on how this art would emerge simultaneously in different places;

Whether this is a coincidence, the result of cultural convergence in widely separated regions, large-scale migrations of a distinct Eurasian population, or another cause remains unknown

It's clear that there is plenty left to discover about these early artists, here in Borneo and in the rest of the world. However, it's fascinating to think of the implications of the same style of art emerging around the globe at the same times in history. This study also shows that the Indonesian cave artists switched from painting animals to painting human stick figures around the same time that this shift in subject happened in Europe - another incredible coincidence. As technology continues to advance, we may see more discoveries made in existing painted caves to shed light on these fascinating concepts.

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Source: Jakarta Post