section: the calcite layer above the paint, the very thin reddish
paint stratum and the limestone beneath it. We gaze in admira-
tion at the meticulous sample that has made this a “ground
zero” where a revolution in theory has been set in motion. And
the hand isn’t all: A sample taken from the babirusa image here
dated to 35,400 years old, which makes it one of the oldest in
the world of an animal.
Our third day we start north and pick our way for 30 minutes
through rice field pathways to Leang Lasitae. Above the front of
the cave are two fish, crossed at right angles, and inside are numer-
ous excellent fish images. Pampang explains that the predominantly
marine imagery reflects what was likely the major resource: the
ocean, which today lies some two kilometers distant, but then may
have been closer. “These are of ocean species, whereas the Jing
Cave paintings showed freshwater fish,” he says . The shapes are so
accurate, he adds, that they can infer the species.
From here, we walk a short distance to Leang
Bulu Balang, which also faces toward the water.
Here, we see our first images of turtles. Two turtle
paintings sport cross-hatched shells, distinct heads,
tails and flippers. We’re told these turtles, too, are
Continuing the pace, Pampang promises some-
thing unique for our next cave. After one of the
wettest treks in, through flooded rice fields that
again mud-pack the boots, then a steep climb up the
limestone detritus, Leang Sakapao doesn’t disap-
point. Painted on a low ceiling, not much over a
meter in height, so we have to lie on our backs to
view it: a realistic image of a pair of mating babi-
rusa. Ramli lies back in the cave dust and points
out the details. “As we can see, there is a male pig-
deer and the other is the female.” He knows of no
other painting of mating babirusa. Indeed, such couplings are
extremely rare in the European caves, too.
Our final day brings us to Bulu Sipong cave after an hour
in highway traffic and a half-hour boat ride along an inland
waterway in a traditional, long, narrow fishing boat with a
single-cylinder motor, followed by our 20-minute climb-and-
crawl through the cave. There’s a new sight for us here, too, a
technique common to the western European images but rare
in Sulawesi: using natural rock features to emphasize subject
images in a sort of a bas-relief. We see the method used to
portray a centipede that is painted upon a naturally raised
rivulet of calcium carbonate, which is used as the body of the
creature. And, depicted both in profile and from above, a rare
image of a boat and, aboard it, two humans. One appears to
be spearing fish and the other poling or paddling the craft.
in Bulu Sipong, shows the artist’s use of natural rock features to emphasize aspects of the subject, a technique
common to the cave images in western Europe but rare in Sulawesi.
This faint image shows a pelican, with a curved neck, looking
at a fish.
A manta ray, painted in Bulu Sipong.