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Discovery of the World's Oldest Figurative Cave Painting

6th July, 2024 Culture and Heritage

Discovery of the World's Oldest Figurative Cave Painting

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  • Researchers have recently unveiled a groundbreaking discovery in the field of archaeology: the world's oldest known figurative cave painting, dating back an astonishing 51,200 years.
  • This remarkable find, located in the Leang Karampuang cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, has captivated the archaeological community and shed new light on the early artistic endeavors of our ancestors.
  • The findings, derived from a sophisticated dating technique, mark a significant advancement in our understanding of prehistoric art and human cultural evolution.

Description of the Painting

  • The painting itself, rendered in red pigment, depicts a scene that includes a pig with its mouth partially open, accompanied by three intriguing figures.
  • These figures, described as therianthropes—part-human, part-animal—engaged in what appears to be a dynamic and narrative-rich interaction with the pig. This portrayal suggests not just artistic expression but also a form of storytelling prevalent among early human communities.

Significance of the Painting

  • Beyond its aesthetic value, the painting challenges existing notions about the timeline and sophistication of early human artistry. It predates the previous oldest known figurative cave art, discovered in 2021 in Leang Tedongnge, Indonesia, by over 5,000 years. This discovery underscores the deep-rooted cultural traditions of visual storytelling among Homo sapiens in the Late Pleistocene era.

New Dating Technique

  • Central to this discovery is the innovative use of uranium series (U-series) analysis of calcite deposits overlaying the cave paintings.
  • By measuring the ratio of uranium to thorium isotopes using laser beams, researchers achieved precise dating of the artwork. This methodological breakthrough not only confirms the age of the painting but also enhances our ability to date other archaeological finds accurately.

Implications and Reactions

  • Historians and archaeologists, have hailed this discovery as a milestone in understanding early human cognition and cultural practices.
  • The rarity of directly dated cave paintings globally, emphasizing the need for continued interdisciplinary collaboration between archaeology and the sciences.


  • In conclusion, the revelation of the world's oldest figurative cave painting in Sulawesi not only reshapes our understanding of ancient human creativity but also highlights the intricate narratives woven into prehistoric art.
  • This find underscores the importance of preserving and studying archaeological sites worldwide to unravel the mysteries of our shared human heritage.


Q. Where is the world's oldest known figurative cave painting located, dating back 51,200 years?

A) Lascaux cave, France

B) Altamira cave, Spain

C) Leang Karampuang cave, Sulawesi, Indonesia

D) Chauvet cave, France


C) Leang Karampuang cave, Sulawesi, Indonesia