Cave Painting: This is the oldest image in the world

Researchers have dated drawings in limestone caves on Borneo.
 Among them is a more than 40,000-year-old image of an unrecognizable animal. Presumably, the author drew a cattle.
 There are sometimes thousands of years between the individual pictures.



    Is it the image of a cow? Australian and Indonesian researchers have come to the conclusion that the world's oldest figurative representation is in a cave on the Indonesian island of Borneo. The reddish-orange drawing of an unrecognizable animal is at least 40,000 years old, writes the team around Maxime Aubert from Griffith University in Gold Coast in the journal Nature.


    Already much earlier, drawings were created that merely depict symbols. Only in September had Norwegian researchers reported in Nature on the discovery of possibly the oldest human drawing. So they found a hashtag-like pattern of ocher-colored lines on a stone in a cave in South Africa. The sign was created about 73 000 years ago.


    The murals in the limestone caves of the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan have been known for more than two decades. So far her age could not be determined. The Griffith University researchers now divide the thousands of images into several phases: The oldest are therefore reddish-orange drawings of animals and hand outlines in the cave Lubang Jeriji Saléh. One of the hand outlines was created according to the study already up to 51 800 years ago.

Some hand outlines in the limestone caves are painted with mulberry color.
            (Photo: Kinez Riza / dpa)
    Significantly younger are paintings with mulberry color. The researchers estimate that they are between 20,000 and 21,000 years old. There is already a cultural change to observe: The paintings with mulberry color represented no longer animals, but above all human life dar. In a third phase, the artists would then have increasingly used black dye and drawn figures, boats and geometric patterns.

Human figures also adorn cave walls.
            (Photo: Pindi Setiawan)

    To determine the age of the paintings, the researchers used the so-called uranium-thorium dating. In the process, the calcareous layer that has formed over the millennia on the paint is examined. Their age can be recognized by the extent to which the uranium isotopes they contain have decayed radioactively and transformed into thorium.

Sensitivity in the Stone Age
                        Neanderthals are considered clumsy powerhouse. The early humans had a lot of tact.
                    By Sandra Sperling