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Oldest cave art yet? Ancient paintings found in Borneo

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At Maggie Fox

The oldest figurative cave art may not belong to France or Spain, but to Borneo, researchers said Wednesday.

They found old handshakes, depictions of people dancing and a drawing of what appears to be a wild cattle dating back 20,000 to 50,000 years ago in a series of hard-accessible caves on the island.

Animal stencils can be 40,000 or more years old, which put them in the track to be the oldest figurative artwork, the researchers reported in the journal Nature.

“The oldest cave image we dated is a great painting of an unidentified animal, probably a species of wild cattle still found in Borneo’s jungles. This is a minimum age of about 40,000 years and is now the earliest known figurative artwork, “Maxime Aubert from Australia’s Griffith University, who led the study team, said in a statement.

Although they are not the absolute record holders of the age, show that people from all over the world did similar works of art in caves at the same time.

“It is now apparent that rockart is emerging in Borneo at the same time as The earliest forms of artistic expression appear in Europe in association with the arrival of modern people (45,000-43,000 years ago), Aubert and colleagues wrote in his report.

Limestone caves are located in a strong forest area of ​​Borneo’s Kalimantan province, in Indonesia. Archaeologists have investigated the difficulty of reaching the caves, which had been known to be richly decorated by humans.

New dating methods show that they are far older than anyone thought they were. The team used uranium dated by the calcium carbonate feet that were built around the paintings.

Part of the oldest dating meant a painting of what appears to be a type of cattle painted in red-orange color.

 The world's oldest figurative work of art from Borneo was dated for at least 40,000 years The world’s oldest figurative artwork from Borneo was dated for at least 40,000 years Luc-Henri Fage

“The image is incomplete and the animal depicted is therefore unclear , but it seems to be a big honeycomb that may have a spear axis striking from the flank, “wrote the team. It may depict a banteng, a species still present today.

Other art dates back to about 20,000 years ago, and the results show that people used the remote caves for millennia.

Much of it had clear significance, researchers said.

“Many of these stencils are partially filled with painted lines, dashes, dots and small abstract characters that possibly represent tattoos or other characteristics of social identification, and in some cases stencils are paired with painted mulberry lines that form intricate tree-like motifs , which may symbolize family relationships, “they wrote.

“Some figures are depicted in narrative scenes like hunting or subsequent little deer or engaged in mysterious social or ritual activities (such as” dancing “),” they added.

Modern people arose in Africa and spread across the world on several waves and reached Australia across the Asia-Pacific between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago

Modern Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea believed to have been a part of it route they took.

The same team reported in 2014 that they had discovered 40,000 years old cave art on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

“What Icelandic artists in Borneo where and what happened to them is a mystery,” said team leader Pindi Setiawan, an archaeologist at Bandung Institute of Technology who worked on

Older hominid species also lived in the area, including “hobbit “Homo floresiensis, whose remains date 700,000 years.

And modern people are not the only famous cave artists. The cave art found in today’s Spain was obviously made by Neanderthals 64,000 years ago, researchers reported earlier this year.

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