One of the oldest known examples of rock art has been discovered in the limestone cave of Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4 on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. In fact, this cave painting, dating to 43,900 years ago, is the earliest evidence for religious beliefs in human history.

Furthermore, researchers found cave paintings illustrating what may be therianthropes (part-animal, part-human figures). They appear in the stories of nearly every modern society and are considered gods, spirits or ancestral beings in many religions.

The therianthropes are hunting wild pigs and dwarf buffaloes in Indonesia. They seem to be at least eight small, human-like figures using ropes to hunt six animals: two Sulawesi warty pigs and four dwarf buffaloes known as anoas.

The cave painting is the first visual storytelling

Maxime Aubert and Adam Brumm sitting underneath the artwork
Photo by Kinez Riza

“Anoas are small in size, but they are reportedly very fierce, especially when cornered. From what I have heard from local people, these elusive dwarf bovids have been known to seriously gore and even kill unwary hunters on the island.

Indeed, the reputation of anoas is such that the Indonesian army even named their armored personnel carrier, the Anoa, after these creatures,” said Adam Brumm, archaeologist and associate professor at the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution (ARCHE).

It must be remembered that these images of therianthropes depict a hunting scene. It is not a random fact, it is important information because the cave painting is also the earliest known visual example of human storytelling.

The rock painting was the beginning of religious-like thinking

The hunting scene
Photo by Adam Brumm, Ratno Sardi, and Adhi Agus Oktaviana

All things considered, this rock painting is not just a simple form of art, it is an important proof that humans always had the ability to imagine the existence of supernatural beings.
So, the humans’ capacity to believe in the existence of supernatural beings is nothing but the beginning of religious thought and belief.

“This discovery suggests that religious-like thinking (the ability to imagine the existence of non-real entities: therianthropes) was already present among our species in Indonesia at least 44,000 years ago, ” added Adam Brumm.

Given these points, humans always had an appetite for creating art, telling, and consuming stories. We can also notice a continuous evolution of Paleolithic art, proof of people’s artistic nature.

This type of art went from simple to complex around 35,000 years ago. the major components of a highly advanced artistic culture and way of thinking were already present in our species at least 44,000 years ago.

1 thought on “Earliest Known Cave Art Reveals Supernatural Hunters”

  1. As an artist…..watercolors……I wonder what the makeup of the paints they used that would stand up over 43000 years. I dare say nothing exist today that could do that..
    Thanks, Maynard

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