The tale behind the world's oldest known cave painting

Depiction of wild pig, believed to be at least 45,500 years old, adds to a growing number of cave art finds in Indonesia

Indonesian archaeologist Basran Burhan beside a painting of a warty pig - the oldest known cave artwork, dating to at least 45,500 years ago - in the Leang Tedongnge limestone cave in South Sulawesi. The Griffith University PhD candidate was the firs
Indonesian archaeologist Basran Burhan beside a painting of a warty pig - the oldest known cave artwork, dating to at least 45,500 years ago - in the Leang Tedongnge limestone cave in South Sulawesi. The Griffith University PhD candidate was the first to discover the painting, the only piece of prehistoric art unencumbered by moss and fungi in the cave, in November 2017. PHOTO: A.A. OKTAVIANA
The mouth of Leang Tedongnge cave in a remote valley in the Maros-Pangkep karst region, famed for its ubiquity of cave art and archaeological findings. Some 84 pieces of prehistoric art - mostly hand outlines and sketches of Sulawesi wild pigs - were
The mouth of Leang Tedongnge cave in a remote valley in the Maros-Pangkep karst region, famed for its ubiquity of cave art and archaeological findings. Some 84 pieces of prehistoric art - mostly hand outlines and sketches of Sulawesi wild pigs - were found in the cave. PHOTO: A.A. OKTAVIANA

Indonesian archaeologist Basran Burhan and his colleagues had finished scouring untouched sites in their search for ancient relics, but undiscovered prehistoric paintings on rocks, which they were looking for, still eluded them.

Undeterred, they went back to the drawing board - in this case, Google Maps, to zoom in on unexplored caves in the region.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2021, with the headline 'The tale behind the world's oldest known cave painting'. Subscribe