45,000-Year-Old Pig Painting in Indonesia May Be Oldest Known Animal Art
Ice Age cave painters flourished in Southeast Asia, where their work adorned rock walls
Aprehistoric artist’s realistic portrayal of a wild pig, warts and all, might just be the oldest known example of a painting that depicts the animal world.
Four years ago, scientists came upon the purplish pig adorning the walls of a cave hidden in a highland valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. They now estimate that it was painted a staggering 45,500 years ago. If that date is correct, the find in Leang Tedongnge cave could represent the earliest known example of figurative art, which is created when painters illustrate objects from the real world rather than simply abstract patterns and designs.
Even if the painting proves to be the oldest known art of its kind, the authors of a new Science Advances study dating and describing it stressed that they have no reason to suspect that it’s unique. In recent years Sulawesi’s limestone karst caves have become known for an abundance of prehistoric art. Hundreds of caves and shelters in the region have been found to contain images, from handprint stencils to animal drawings, that provide an intimate glimpse into the vanished world of humankind’s prehistoric past.
Animals were popular subjects for Pleistocene painters, who used brushstrokes and their fingers to depict them in red and purple hues. The Sulawesi warty pig (Sus celebensis), identified by its distinctive spiky head crests and snout warts, appears in more than 80 percent of the known animal art representations in South Sulawesi.