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The Oldest Known Hand Stencil & One of the Earliest Dated Figurative Depictions: Both Discovered in Maros, Sulawesi, Indonesia (Circa 38,000 BCE)


Cave paintings on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi were discovered  in the 1950s; however, they were thought to be no more than 12,000 years old, dating to a hunter-gatherer migration to the island. On October 8, 2014 archaeologist Maxime Aubert of Griffith University, Queensland, Australia, and colleagues from Australia and Indonesia reported that uranium-series dating of coralloid speleothems directly associated with 12 human hand stencils and two figurative animal depictions from seven cave sites in the Maros karsts of Sulawesi, proved that rock art traditions on this Indonesian island are at least comparable in age with the oldest European cave art. In addition, a painting of a babirusa (‘pig-deer’) made at least 35.4 thousand years ago is among the earliest dated figurative depictions worldwide, if not the earliest one.

Aubert et al, "Pleistocene cave art from Sulawesi, Indonesia," Nature 514 (October 8, 2014)223-227.