44,000-Year-Old Paintings Leave More Questions than Answers

Someone climbed up high onto a rocky ledge in Indonesia over 44,000 years ago. Their intent and tools may not be known, but the artwork that the person left behind has many people talking today.

The mural depicts hunters with animal heads and armed with spears taking the fight to some buffalo and wild hogs.

Some scientists say that this is the oldest known representation of figurative art created by humans. It could be evidence that imagination has always been part of our existence. The animals depicted in the scene are bovines called anoa and the Sulawesi warty pig, both of which still live on the island.

Every Society Has Mythic Traditions

Could this artwork be a representation of one artist’s imagination, or does it represent actual events that happened tens of thousands of years ago?

The answer to those questions depends on the accuracy of the dating process. Scientists carefully pulled out a few small shards from the wall containing the painting. When rainwater trickles into a cave, it leaves mineral deposits that contain uranium.

We know that uranium decays into thorium at a fixed rate. When researchers analyzed this data from the mineral layer that was taken from on top of the painting, the minimum age was 44,000 years. That means it could be even older, and the work is at least 4,000 years beyond the earliest instances of figurative art found in Europe.

Every human society has had some form of storytelling as part of its existence. The depictions offered by the cave painting show that ancient civilizations have more in common with us than we might realize.

Do These Paintings Disrupt Human Origin Theory?

Human origin theories often place the first civilizations in the Middle East. These ideas also suggest that Europe was responsible for evolving the early cultures that we would define as “modern” today.

The paintings found in Indonesia help to dispel that notion. Even though most researchers already consider it to be an outdated observation, it is one that lingers in regular society.

The fact that the paintings reflect half-animal, half-human creatures remains consistent with other findings from around the world. That means a natural question to ask involves whether or not these images are the representation of an imagination.

Could these creatures have roamed our planet millennia ago?

Nothing supports such an observation from the fossil record, but that fact doesn’t discredit the similarities found in so many ancient stories. That’s why this incredible find leaves more questions than answers for some researchers.