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Oldest figurative artwork found in a cave that's full of surprises

The figurative painting is of wild cattle, part of a large panel with three large animal paintings. The pigment comes…

The figurative painting is of wild cattle, part of a large panel with three large animal paintings. The pigment comes from iron oxide, or ears, which gives the painting its reddish-orange hat.

Uranium dating or small samples of the limestone crust over the art dates to 40,000 years ago. The paintings were found in Borneo’s East Kalimantan province, where limestone caves contain thousands of rock art images.

Forty thousand years ago, Borneo was not an island but a part of continental Asia when the sea levels were lower, the researchers said. 19659004] The cave also contains hand stencils in the first ander phase, a second phase of hand stencils in a mulberry color along with intricate motifs and humans, and a third phase of human figures, boats and geometric designs. The red-orange and purple pigments have an identical mineral composition, the researchers said, so they believe all of it was originally purple and shifted over time.

 Composition of mulberry-colored hand stencils from 20,000 years ago.

“We think the first phase of paintings focusing on red large animal paintings and hand stencils started between 40,000 and 52,000 years ago and possibly lasted until the [ice age] 20,000 years ago,” Maxime Aubert, study author and associate professor at Griffith University in Australia, wrote in an email. “Then a second phase of rock art developed focusing on depicting the human world.”

The ice age artists in caves

This research team also discovered 35,000-year-old figurative animal cave art and 40,000-year-old hand stencils in Sulawesi, which lies between Asia and Australia.

Figurative art is a hallmark of this period in human history. “Figurative art developed in South East Asia at the same time as in Europe,” Aubert said. “The art also changes at about the same time. Initially humanized figurative painting of large animals and they later start depicting the human world.” [19659002] So what does this tell us about humans living in the area at the time? Selv om mennesker ankom i Sydøstasien mellem 60.000 og 70.000 år siden, er der ikke blevet opdaget nogen art som datoer til den tiden. In Europe, the art appears at the same time modern humans arrived there.

 Composition of mulberry-colored hand stencils superimposed on older reddish / orange hand stencils. De to stilarter er adskilt af mindst 20.000 år.

This creates many theories. Perhaps the art just had not been found or dated yet, or there were different waves of human migration – or the dates of the earliest arrivals of humans in Southeast Asia and Australia are wrong, Aubert said. Populations could also have boomed later, between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago.

Or maybe the art itself was “exported,” so to speak, traveling from place to place and beginning at different stages than humans learned art. Dit kan ook rekening houden met de fasen van kunst, van afbeeldende dieren tot mensen.

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Human figures dated at least 13,600 years ago. least 13,600 years ago. ” class=”media__image” src=”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/181107110359-03-ancient-finds-borneo-cave-art-large-169.jpg”/>

The discovery of calcite on top of the paintings was crucial because the researchers date when it formed, as opposed to the actual pigments. Calcite forms when rainwater seeps through limestone, dissolving a small amount of uranium. Uranium decays over time, creating the element thorium, and measuring the ratio of one element to the other reveals the age of the coating, Aubert said.

Reaching the cave art itself was treacherous, requiring the researchers to travel by canoeing a river followed by walking for four days through thick jungle before hiking up a mountain. They travel light, sleep in hammocks and stay in the cave for about two months. Their main water source is what drips from stalagmites, Aubert said.

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The cave opens to an untouched Valley ringing with the sounds of orangutans and bird calls, and the scent of durian fruit is heavy in the air. Tiger prints appear on the forest floor, as does the occasional cobra.

Human figures from 13,600 years ago. ” class=”media__image” src=”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/181107110418-04-ancient-finds-borneo-cave-art-large-169.jpg”/>

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