Figurative art seen in 43,900-year-old Indonesian cave painting

Video provides images from within the cave and discussion of the scientific process used to date the cave art.

This news about cave art in Bulu Sipong cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi adds significantly to the evidence of human creative expression in the distant past. Archeologists have dated the Sulawesi cave art at 43,900 years old. It could be far older, but the mineral analysis used to date the paintings can only establish a minimum age not a maximum age.


The images show therianthropes hunting pigs and a variety of buffalo indigenous to the island. Therianthropes are beings who possess human and animal characteristics. They are common in many cultural traditions, such as the dog-headed man-god Anubis in Egypt.

Figurative Art

The art in Bulu Sipong cave distinguishes itself as the earliest known example of figurative art. The obvious stylistic choices of the prehistoric artists and the narrative quality of the art prove that creative minds intended their images to express ideas.

So Much Has Gone to Dust

Archeological finds like this one offer glimpses into the lost prehistory of our species. They always raise far more questions than they provide answers. So much of prehistoric human existence has been lost to time. Eventually, all our works go to dust.

The people who worked hard to document the cave art in Bulu Sipong know that its location is vulnerable to being destroyed by a mining operation. Think about how many records and relics of distant human lives have been buried by geologic forces or paved over by civilization.

With so much impossible to know, my imagination takes over and casts stories in far off alternative worlds where my creativity can pay homage to the true stories lost to the ages.

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