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December 11, 2019 - Archaeologists have discovered a cave painting in Indonesia that is at least 43,900 years old and which portrays the oldest pictorial record of storytelling and the earliest figurative artwork in the world.
As reported in Nature, a team of Australian archaeologists, led by Griffith University, discovered a 4.5-metre-wide rock art panel with monochromal paintings of what appear to be human-like figures hunting six animals, in the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
The elaborate scene, found in the limestone cave of Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4, is the first time such a detailed visual narrative or ‘story’ has been identified at such an early period in the vast record of prehistoric cave art worldwide.
Until now, oldest known “scenes” of humans and animals interacting date from Upper Palaeolithic cave art of Europe (21,000-14,000 years ago), such as the famous compositions in Lascaux, France.
The Leang Bulu’ cave art also includes depictions of abstract beings that combine the qualities of animals and humans, known as therianthropes.
Depictions of therianthropes suggest Indonesian cave art involved religious-like thinking – the ability to conceive of supernatural entities – long before humans first made art in Europe
These figures are at least several millennia older than the iconic lion-headed figurine from Aurignacian Germany. The 40,000-year-old 'Lion Man' was, until now, the oldest known depiction of a therianthrope anywhere in the world.