Page 1 – In the beginning was the critter
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What a creature is supposedly the oldest figurative work of art
Humanity Maxime Aubert can not say directly. The amorphous mammal remembers
more to a Rorschachtest than to the work of a beautiful spiritual Maestros. On a "big
Hoofed Animal "typed Aubert, archaeologist at Griffith University, Australia
assume that a second, more complete animal representation in immediate neighborhood
may be the same age and shows the same species. Clearly there is the powerful horns
to recognize a cattle. "A banteng," says Aubert. You can also say sunda-ox, these
Wild cattle later domesticated Southeast Asians to Balirind.
At least 40,000 years, a maximum of 52,000 years have passed since an artistically ambitious man in this subterranean town on the island of Borneo had a flash of inspiration. He grabbed, according to Aubert, too orange, wore it with his fingers on the cave ceiling. And in the end, over his head, the reasonably realistic representation of a Bos javanicus lowi resembled. If Maxime Aubert is right, then the art might have been – the portrait of a cattle.
Forested mountain ranges with rugged cliffs towering several hundred meters: Since the 1990s, scientists have documented thousands of rock paintings in the karst caves of this hard-to-reach region in the Indonesian province of Kalimantan Timur. But only now that Aubert has been able to date some works from the Lubang Jeriji Saléh Cave will the world public notice them.
In the science magazine
The results of the Australian were published. Do they agree, this means that millennia before artists started working in the famous ice age caves of Lascaux, Chauvet or Altamira, people were already creating large-format murals on the opposite end of the Eurasian double continent. Did not figurative art begin in Europe, as has been claimed for decades by archaeologists, but far away in the southeast of Asia?
The new date puts the works from Borneo ahead of famous European creative achievements. El Castillo in Spain, with 40,000-year-old representations, or the Chauvet Cave, with around 36,000-year-old masterpieces, are considered pioneer art sites. The caves of the Swabian Alb, where 30,000 to 40,000 years ago, glaciers carved masterful ivory gems of mammoths – lion, waterfowl, horse and the lusciously contoured Venus of Hohlefels. Are caves in Southeast Asia now outclassing these sites?
Several ungulates, below the wild cattle from the photo above
© Pindi Setiawan
For Nicholas Conard, archaeologist at the University of Tübingen, these are not the crucial questions. And his envy did not arouse the new findings either. Rather, they are a confirmation. Conard, himself a frequent discoverer of early art, says he was more surprised that it took so long for similarly aged works to appear on other continents. Conard has been researching the figurative art of the Swabian Alb for years. From him came once the idea of a "strong culture pump". It goes something like this: The changeable ice age climate, the competition to other hunter-gatherer groups or the coexistence with the Neanderthals had led to stress. Under this pressure, many cultural innovations were created almost in a bizarre fashion – in Europe.
Conard says he was surprised that this model was not modified long ago. He was convinced that art had not only once originated in one place and spread out from there. On the contrary: "The polycentric model of innovation will establish itself" – many starting points instead of a single one. Even the idea that a central light switch of creativity had been activated at a certain time was outdated. "It's all a lot more complex."
The Tübingen Conard expects traces of early creation to be discovered in many places on earth. Europe's reputation as a hotspot should not only have something to do with the fact that much has been preserved here, but also with the fact that much more effort was needed here.