Archaeologists working on a site in Sulawesi, Indonesia have discovered a cave painting of a warty pig that is at least 45,500 years old. According to CNN, this archaeological marvel is thought to be the oldest-known pictorial representation of an animal in history.
“This discovery underlines the remarkable antiquity of Indonesia’s rock art and its great significance for understanding the deep-time history of art and its role in humanity’s early story,” said Adam Brumm of Griffith’s Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, co-authoring the study with Maxime Aubert.
The Sulawesi warty pig species is characterized by its small size, short legs, and distinct facial warts, according to Sci-News.com.
Painted with red ochre, a reddish-brown inorganic pigment, the solitary warty pig is part of a scene that depicts a drove of other warty pigs engaged in a fight or a nondescript social interaction with each other, Brumm said. The image of the four-legged creature is accompanied by two hand stencils near the posterior region of the pig.
Previously, experts believed that a 40,000-year-old image found in Europe featuring abstract symbols was the oldest surviving cave art, a position now usurped by the warty pig painting.
Aubert, an archaeologist, and associate professor at Griffith University, said that the discovery of this painting contests the belief that artistic expression first began in Europe.
Researchers now postulate that the ability to produce figurative art arose either before Homo sapiens relocated from Africa to Europe and Asia over 60,000 years ago, or occurred multiple times as humans dispersed throughout the world.
The image of the warty pig measures 136 cm by 54 cm and is situated in the rear wall of the Leang Tedongnge cave, which, according to Brumm, is enclosed by steep limestone cliffs. The cave can be accessed through a narrow passage that is navigable only during the dry season, as the valley floor is entirely flooded during the wet season.
“The isolated Bugis community living in this hidden valley claim it had never before been visited by Westerners,” Brumm said.
Archaeologists have also found a second, younger cave painting of a Sulawesi warty pig in another cave in the area, Leang Balangajia 1 cave. It was dated to at least 32,000 years ago using the same method. Researchers ascertained that the creature was indeed a warty pig from the two hornlike protrusions in the snout area.
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