Indonesian Cave Art Showcases Oldest Hand Stencil



Art has always exhibited the legacy of mankind. There may have been several factors as to what was the reason for the evolution of art. Like in modern times today, various events which may have captured the attention of our ancestors must have been encouraging for them to leave a mark on the caves. A new discovery in the caves of Indonesia suggests what is believed to have been the oldest hand stencil yet discovered.

Check out this cool video about the oldest cave paintings.

The following is an excerpt from the Article published in the New Scientist Magazine.

In a limestone cave sits the world’s oldest hand stencil. Next to it is a drawing of a pig-deer. Together, they are turning our understanding of the birth of art on its head. Around 40,000 years ago, early Europeans were the first to begin smearing pigment on walls, or so the story goes. But now paintings of animals and hand stencils on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi have been identified as just as old as their European equivalents – and in some cases older.

The most striking of these looks like a female babirusa, known as a pig-deer. A barely perceptible red line below may represent the ground that it is walking on. Next to this painting, which adorns the ceiling of a 4-metre-high cave, is a human hand stencil, made by pressing a hand against the rock and spraying wet pigments over it.

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A Clearer Image of the Oldest Hand Stencil

The exact purpose of such prehistoric cave paintings may never be known. It may have just been an expression, or maybe something intriguing for these Paleolithic cavemen to draw a part of their own. Many cave paintings are often believed to have been of certain ceremonial rituals or of religious importance. The most common drawings which have been discovered are of animals. The cave paintings may have continued for a particular civilization till they learned how to write or developed other methods of keeping records.

The cave paintings give us a sense of connection with our ancestors

Overall, ancient art is extremely valuable as it provides us with knowledge of the past civilizations and cultures which have become extinct. One must also realize that art is an expression and it should not be measured in terms of its beauty – rather one must understand and value its importance. There could be a story behind every piece of art, and many of these rare cave paintings may be sending a message which we may never understand.

Something that we can make out from this discovery is that our ancestors too had some artistic sense. There may be many more such caves scattered around the world. In one of our previous articles, we had shared information about the discovery of the earliest human cave art.

For our future generations, the history of cave paintings will be far more valuable than it is for us today. The cave paintings give us a sense of connection with our ancestors in some way. If we could somehow know the exact purpose of these famous cave paintings, perhaps that would reveal some ancient secrets which we are yet to come across.


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