Cave drawings in Indonesia are as old as famous prehistoric art in Europe, according to a new study that shows that our ancestors drew all over the world 40,000 years ago.
The findings suggest that the early modern man’s creativity occurred earlier than scientists believed.
Archaeologists calculated based on the uranium’s level of decay, that dozens of hand templates made in red color and two detailed drawings of an animal described as a “pig-deer,” have been created 35,000 to 40,000 years ago. This places the discoveries of Sulawesi, of the southeast of Borneo, at the same time period as the drawings found in Spain and the famous cave from France.
One of the Indonesian fingerprints, who is believed to have at least 39,900 years, is now the oldest known hand pattern known to science, according to a new study published in the journal “Nature”.
In 2011, scientists noticed some strange material deposits – called “cavepopcorn”- on the drawings. These mineral deposits would allow the use of new technologies to find the date when they were made, by measuring the uranium’s half-life. Scientists tested the cavepopcorn deposits that grew on the drawings to determine their minimum age, and the result was an amazing number: 40,000 years.
The details of the animal drawings are “very, very well done,” said the lead study author, Maxime Aubert, archaeologist and geochemist at Griffith University in Australia, in a telephone interview from Jakarta, Indonesia. “When you look at them closely, you forget that they are really 40,000 years old, it’s amazing.”
Paleoanthropologist John Shea of Stony Brook University in New York, who was not part of the team that conducted the study, considered it an important discovery able to change what science understands about prehistoric people and their art.
Before this discovery, experts tended to have a vision centered on Europe, regarding how and where prehistoric art emergenced. Knowing that is important because it “somehow defines us as a species.”
Shea said in an email: “To the extent that many of us would find it difficult to create such paintings, they [the authors] maybe were superior in this respect.”