Humans could paint in the old-old times too!

Daily news

7 November 2018

World’s first figurative art is of an unknown animal in Borneo

A landscape in Borneo

Borneo is home to the world’s oldest figurative art

Pindi Setiawanpainting

At first glance you might miss it. But a faint drawing of an unknown animal on a cave wall in a remote Borneo jungle is the oldest known figurative art. The painting was made at least 40,000 years ago, predating famous depictions of animals found on European caves and shaking up our understanding of the origins of art – a key innovation in human history.

The limestone caves of the remote East Kalimantan province of Borneo are adorned with thousands of images in three distinct styles: reddish-orange hand stencils and paintings of animals, purple hand stencils with intricate designs as well as human figures, and complex black depictions of humans, boats and geometric patterns. But the dates when these painting were created were a mystery.

“The art was discovered in the 1990s. We wanted to find out exactly how old it was,” says Maxime Aubert of Griffiths University in Queensland, Australia.

So he and his colleagues analysed the calcite layers covering the paintings. This crystalline material is deposited by dripping water and analysis of the uranium it contains gives a date for when the art beneath was created.

On a panel of depicting large reddish-orange wild-cattle, the researchers discovered that a faint animal had been drawn between 40,000 and 52,000 years ago. This makes it the oldest known figurative art and builds on the 2014 discovery of a hand stencil dating back at least 35,700 years on the neighbouring Indonesian island of Sulawesi. “It was quite amazing,” says Aubert.

A faint painted red animal

The world’s oldest figurative art

Luc-Henri Fage

The ability to depict real-life objects seems to have developed tens of thousands of years after humans first started to draw. The oldest drawing in the world is a 73,000 year-old crosshatch found in a South African cave. In Europe, the oldest art is also an abstract symbol of red lines and a hand stencil, made by Neanderthals around 65,000 years ago.

But these abstract designs are simpler than representational art, which makes the Borneo discovery particularly significant. “Figurative art is a more complex thing to do,” says Aubert.

The finding adds to the mounting evidence that Southeast Asia is a key site for the development of art, not just Europe as once thought. At the same time as art was developing in Europe, he says, “humans were making sophisticated paintings on the opposite side of the world.”

The researchers also found that the three different painting styles were created in three distinct phases, probably by different waves of people.

The purple-coloured painting style started around 20,000 thousand years ago. It is very different from the original reddish phase, depicting human figures with elaborate headdresses dancing and hunting, along with hand stencils decorated with geometric motifs, sometimes joined together by lines like a family tree.

The black paintings of people and boats are much more recent, and may be associated with the movement of Neolithic farmers into the region about 4,000 years ago.

The artists of all three phases are unknown. “That’s one of the big questions,” says Aubert, who plans to go back to Borneo next year to conduct archaeological investigations to find out more about these people.

See the video a this link:

Journal reference: See full article  Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0679-9

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About ivarjordre

painter, activist, writer, revolutionary, human
Dette innlegget vart posta under Archaeology, Asia og merkt , , , . Bokmerk permalenkja.

3 Responses to Humans could paint in the old-old times too!

  1. migarium seier:

    I have read this discovery two days ago, it is really amazing!

    On the other side, the hands on the wall seemed different and interesting to me. What were these hands? And I had imagined a scene like that, my earthling friend.

    It is happening in 40.000 years ago; imagine following.:)

    A man enters to the cave after the hunt, and sees one of men or women draws the animal painting. And hunter man asks to him/her:
    «What are you doing!»
    «Hmmm, I do not know, I put the animals on the wall I guess.»
    Hunter talks again:
    «The thing that you do is wrong! This is our cave. I already see these animals everyday outside. Do I have to see them inside my cave again!
    Painter answers,
    «You can try to avoid seeing them; look other side.»

    In the meantime, the cave chief come near by them and says «we will gather after big shiny hot circle gone, and discuss this.»

    At night, in the gathering nobody can agree on the issue. And the no votes(against the paintings) had been 10, yes votes for paintings had been 10. So there is an equality.

    But there happened a fight between the sides at that night. The «no» voters were the hunters mostly. And they were more strong than the others. During the fight, 3 yes voters died. And equality has broken.

    The day after, the hunter, who become against paintings at first, looked at the wall. The animals were still there. He could not paint, he had not got any skill on painting. Even if their bloody victory that they gained last night, he was annoying to see these animals on the wall still. And he did what he can only do. Hunter has put his hands on the wall and drawn around his hands.

    He laughed while looking his hands on the wall, and he left cave. After a short while, the painter who painted the animals saw the wall, and become sad. The cave chief come to him/her. And painter asks to cave chief,
    «Who put its hands on the wall.»
    Chief answers,
    «Vandal did.»

    So, my dear earthling friend, the word of vandal occured like that; contrary to general belief, Vandal was the name of the first damaging person in human history. I think I am right, can I be right, yes, I can be right, haha!

  2. ivarjordre seier:

    Yes, it is really amazing! May be FANTASTIC, FANTASTIC, FANTASTIC, can be said too.

    The hands on the wall (so called hand stencils or prints) are not very different from many parts of the world. These hand images can be found in similar forms in Europe, Eastern Asia and South America. And interesting to me is also that many of the print images probably have been made by females. What were these hands you ask? Well, it’s some theories on that. It’s been discussion on things like magic/shaman work, or representative art, or «signatures» and more. Difficult of course to tell what happened tens of thousands of years back..Any way I imagine scenes like this could have been quite fun to do, my x-terrestrial friend.

    And thanks for a nice story. If this was the first use of the word vandal might be, I’m not sure of that, but the story is good any way. One thing I’m sure of is that I wasn’t among those painters in that Borneo cave! Or was I?

    • migarium seier:

      «It’s been discussion on things like magic/shaman work, or representative art, or “signatures” and more.» I did not know that!

      If is that so, when thinking on what are the duties of a shaman, and what is the realitionship of shaman with the society, these could be «first written history» on the planet.

      Because shamans are chosen from individuals who are given a certain education, except their mystical attributes. So the previous accumulations/knowledges of shamans are transferred into the future through him. So if they did these pictures, these paintings» mission could be transferring what they lived to the next generations.

      I, on the other hand, always had thought the paintings in the caves were the stories and fiction. Because animals in the paintings are always in motion. I had thought they(the first ages men/women) were picturing what they were dreaming of for wild animals that they never caught.

      You also said, my earthling friend: «One thing I’m sure of is that I wasn’t among those painters in that Borneo cave! Or was I?»

      Yes! You could be one of them, because you have talent, and maybe one of your ancestors could be one of these painters! But definitelly was not me; because at first, there is no record in my data base about I visited the planet earth at those ages; second, I do not have any ability on painting, even I cannot draw stickman, haha!

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