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Griffith Magazine

Griffith researchers uncover oldest-known rock art in Borneo

Griffith Magazine

Third Edition February 2019

Undiscovered rock art unearthed by Griffith University was thrust into the international limelight when high-profile journal Nature lifted the lid on the research paper.

Associate Professor Maxime Aubert, with Griffith’s Place, Evolution, and Rock Art Heritage Unit (PERAHU) and the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution (ARCHE), alongside Associate Professor Adam Brumm, an ARC Future Fellow within ARCHE, were part of the team that mounted the expedition in Kalimantan.

The cave paintings were created as early as 40,000 years ago, confirming that these enigmatic artworks are among the world’s oldest examples of figurative depiction. This finding adds to the mounting view that cave art – one of the most important innovations in human cultural history – did not arise in Europe as long believed, and that Ice Age artists in Southeast Asia played a key role in its development.

“The oldest cave art image we dated is a large painting of an unidentified animal, probably a species of wild cattle still found in the jungles of Borneo; this has a minimum age of around 40,000 years and is now the earliest-known figurative artwork,” Associate Professor Aubert said.

The discovery was reported across major print and TV networks locally and internationally, including The New York Times, CNN, BBC, The Independent, The Guardian, ABC, 7 News nationwide and across the Macquarie radio news networks.