This little piggy went wee, wee, wee into prehistory.
Archaeologists believe they have discovered the oldest painting of an animal in human history — a portly pig drawn in ocher on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, at a site known as Leang Tedongnge.
Superficial mineral testing has revealed the doodle, originally discovered in 2017 by a local researcher, is at least 45,500 years old, but the task of dating has taken years, according to the new study published in Science Advances.
The drawing is actually a small drove of pigs, although one image stands out among the rest: a large, warty swine on the run, its size indicated by a pair of hands reaching toward its meaty backside.
“They’re very, very small, little pigs, but these ancient artists portrayed them with such resplendent fatness, which I imagine was something to do with their interest in killing the largest and fattest pigs they could find, which yielded the largest amount of meat and protein,” said Adam Brumm, first author of the study, speaking to National Geographic.
It’s possible that the drawing was completed over a number of years, suggested by the different pigments used to complete the artwork. A nearby cave, Leang Balangajia 1, boasts its own hog art, dating back at least 32,000 years. Ancient tools designed for ocher processing had been previously discovered on Sulawesi Island, hinting that these tools could have been used to create the drawings.
“It’s possible that they were using that pigment to create the rock art, but we haven’t been able to make the direct connection between the [tools] and the rock art itself,” Brumm told Nat Geo.
Although some of the most notable discoveries in cave painting menageries have occurred in France and Spain, some dating back more than 40,000 years, the Leang Tedongnge discoveries are the oldest and therefore make strong evidence against the theory that ancient Europe was central to human evolution.
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