On the Sulawesi warty pig

A painting of a wild pig and two hand prints dated at least 45,500 years, recently discovered at Leang Tedongnge in Sulawesi, Indonesia. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - The Sulawesi warty pig is a star feature of the cave painting found recently in the Leang Tedongnge cave in Sulawesi.

The pig, known as the Sus celebensis, is a small wild boar endemic to Sulawesi. The pigs can still be found in relative abundance in certain parts of the island, said Dr Adam Brumm, professor of archaeology at Griffith University in Australia.

The pig's average adult body weight is between 40kg and 85kg and sports a greyish-black coat, tinged with red or yellow at its flanks.

It also has three pairs of facial warts and pale bristles on its snout.

Dr Brumm said that while little is known about the identity and genetic ancestry of the artists who produced the early cave paintings, the researchers do have insight into their cultural "life ways".

Research suggests that the people who produced the cave art were likely mobile hunter-gatherers who exploited a range of animal prey, with a particular focus on warty pigs and bear cuscuses (large possum-like marsupials endemic to the island).

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan, senior specialist in archaeology at the Seameo (South-east Asian Ministers of Education Organisation) regional centre for archaeology and fine arts in Bangkok, said there are a few theories explaining why people had painted pigs in the past.

One is neuro-psychological in nature, where they felt compelled to document what they had seen or eaten.

Another possibility could be shamanistic in nature, where people believed that drawing a pig they had intended to hunt, or a painting depicting a hunting scene, could be a good omen for future success, he noted.

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