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May/June 2015


of greater Southeast Asia.” He adds, “For instance, in Kakadu-

Arnhem Land and other parts of northern Australia, the oldest

surviving rock art consists of naturalistic animals and stencils.

This opens up the possibility that the practice of making these

sorts of designs was brought to Australia at the time of initial

colonization, but it may alternatively have been independently

invented or resulted from as yet unknown forms of cultural

contact. All three possibilities are equally intriguing.”

To address these questions, Alistair Pike says new areas of

investigation now must

include places like the

Arabian Peninsula, where

new research is currently

under way, India and

along the coastal migration routes.

It is the Sulawesi dates that have set it all in motion. “The

new dates open a new chapter in the history of human creativ-

ity,” says Aubert. “It shows that at the same time, at opposite

ends of the world 40,000 years ago, our species was painting the

walls and ceilings of their caves. It suggests a deeper origin for

human creativity, perhaps in Africa, and it reinforces the idea

that our species is special, that art made us human.”

This is uniquely pleasing in Indonesia, says Hakim. “All this

time Europe was known to have the oldest rock art painting. Now

the oldest is in Maros, and I am truly proud of it,” he says.


Graham Chandler



on topics in archeology, aviation and energy. He received his

doctorate in archeology from the University of London and

lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Meridith Kohut

([email protected]


@meridithkohut) has produced news, features and video

photojournalism from throughout Latin America for numerous

world publications since 2008. A graduate of the University of

Texas School of Journalism, she lives in Caracas, Venezuela.

Related articles at

Caves of Saudi Arabia: M/A 00

Early migrations: S/O 12

Rock art in Saudi Arabia: M/A 02

Explore the cave-galleries of South Sulawesi:

Teenagers stroll along a path in Leang-Leang Prehistoric Park, where the cave art is well documented;

however, most of the 127 known caves lie outside the park’s boundaries, and so far, only 90 have

been surveyed.


In what may be a contemporary echo of a practice that began 40,000 years ago,

Syarifuddin, a resident in a village near the park, shows the faded ceremonial handprints that he

placed four years ago on the timbers of his home to bring—as tradition has it—good fortune.

Passing villages and often chatting with residents along the way,

archeologists Ramli, Pampang and their team boat out after four

days in the caves. Local relations, says Pampang, are key to

successful conservation. “We ensure they understand it’s their own

proud heritage,” he says.