Oldest Figurative Rock Art discovered in Southeast Asia

Credit: Pindi Setiawan

Credit: Pindi Setiawan

This finding adds to the mounting view that cave art – one of the most important innovations in human cultural history – did not arise in Europe as long believed, and that ‘ice age’ artists in Southeast Asia played a key role in its development. 

“The oldest cave art image we dated is a large painting of an unidentified animal, probably a species of wild cattle still found in the jungles of Borneo – this has a minimum age of around 40,000 years and is now the earliest known figurative artwork,” Associate Professor Aubert from Griffith University said. 

The Kalimantan stencil art was shown to be similar in age, suggesting that a Palaeolithic rock art tradition first appeared on Borneo between about 52,000 and 40,000 years ago. Dating also indicated that a major change occurred within this culture around 20,000 years ago, giving rise to a new rock art style (including rare portrayals of humans) at a time when the global ice age climate was at its most extreme.  

Renaud Joannes-Boyau