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Cave Paintings Dated as World's Oldest
October 9, 2014

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Redating of a trove of ancient images has sparked a debate over the world's oldest cave art.

A recent study has concluded that people on Sulawesi, an Indonesian island, created stencils of their hands on cave walls nearly 40,000 years ago. If that dating is valid, it would make the cave art the oldest in the world.

The study, led by Maxime Aubert and Adam Brumm of Australia's Griffith University, determined that uranium in calcite found on top of the stencils was 39,900 years old. Nearby paintings of wild pigs were dated at 35,400 years old.

The paintings were discovered in the 1950s. Archaeologists think that the ancient people who lived on Sulawesi spray-painted the stencils onto the cave walls and roof by blowing red paint out of their mouths.

Brumm and the rest of the team are already at work excavating caves nearby, looking for bones, stone tools, and perhaps more art. The team includes Thomas Sutikna of Jakarta's National Centre for Archaeology. Sutikna was on a team who discovered the "hobbit," a diminutive human species found on another Indonesian island.

The oldest cave art previously known was groups of horses and rhinoceroses on the walls of caves in Chauvet, France. These drawings are thought to have been done more than 30,000 years ago.

The oldest art of any kind in the world, a smudged red disc found on a cave wall at El Castillo, Spain, is thought to have been painted 41,000 years ago.

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