Big News from Indonesia

There was big news from Indonesian earlier this month. A multinational team has identified the oldest known figurative paintings in the world on the island of Sulawesi. The new dates 44,000 years BP are in line -yet older- than other dates from Sulawesi and Borneo. In their paper in Nature Maxime Aubert has identified not just animals but therianthropes

“abstract beings that combine the qualities of both people and animals.”

(there is an excellent discussion of the article in Smithsonian)

Six humanoid figures with animal features surround an anoa, a small type of buffalo, in a 44,000-year-old Indonesian cave mural. (Ratno Sardi)

Therianthropes are incredibly rare in paleolithic cave art. The most famous example is the transforming bison from Chauvet made famous by Cave of Forgotten Dreams and there is a lesser-known anthropomorphic figure from Tito Bustillo in Spain.

A therianthrope figure in Tito Bustillo cave, Spain.

Aubert’s find further confirms that creativity and storytelling did not develop in Europe. Instead, it appears that they formed with us as our species developed in Africa.

It is our view at the Archive that the ability to make art is humanity’s first true innovation and that by the time our species expanded from Africa to rest of the world we had a complete artistic toolkit built into our psyche.