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51,000-year-old Indonesian cave painting may be the world's oldest storytelling art.

A cave painting on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi may be the oldest evidence of narrative art ever discovered, researchers say. The artwork, which depicts a human-like figure interacting with a warty pig, suggests people may have been using art as a way of telling stories for much longer than we thought. 

Archaeological evidence shows that Neanderthals began marking caves as early as 75,000 years ago, but these markings were typically non-figurative. Until a few years ago, the oldest known figurative cave painting was a 21,000-year-old rock art panel in Lascaux, France, showing a bird-headed human charging a bison. But in 2019, archaeologists unearthed hundreds of examples of rock art in caves in the Maros-Pangkep karst. The rock art included a 15-foot-wide (4.5 meters) panel depicting human-like figures engaging with warty pigs (Sus celebensis) and anoas (Bubalus) — dwarf buffalos native to Sulawesi.

The archaeologists previously dated the panel rock art and found it to be at least 43,900 years old, while the oldest image they found in the area was of a 45,500-year-old warty pig. 

Now, using a more sensitive dating technique, the archaeologists found that the rock art is at least 4,000 years older than previously thought, making it around 48,000 years old. More strikingly, the archaeologists found a similar depiction of the human-like figure and warty pig at another cave in Leang Karampuang that was at least 51,200 years old, making it the oldest known narrative art. Their findings were published Wednesday (July 3) in the journal Nature. 

Source: www.nature.com

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