A painting discovered on the wall of an Indonesian cave has been found to be 44,000 years old.
Archaeologists from Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, present the findings in the journal Nature.
The 4.5-metre-long panel features reddish-brown forms that seem to depict human-like figures hunting local animal species.
Previously, rock art found in European sites dated to around 14,000 to 21,000 years old were considered to be the world’s oldest clearly narrative artworks.
The scientists working on the latest find say that the Indonesian art pre-dates these.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before. I mean, we’ve seen hundreds of rock art sites in this region, but we’ve never seen anything like a hunting scene,” says Adam Brumm, an archaeologist at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia.
Other researchers say the discovery is important because the animal paintings are also the oldest figurative artworks — those that clearly depict objects or figures in the natural world — on record. But some aren’t yet convinced by the claim the panel represents a single ‘scene’, or story.
They suggest it might be a series of images painted over the course of perhaps thousands of years.
Last year, a cave painting in Borneo – thought to be the oldest of an animal – was found to be at least 40,000 years old.