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.
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 atwww.aramcoworld.com
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
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.