They removed samples smaller than one centimetre (half an inch) across from the artworks and found one painting of an animal had been produced at least 40,000 years ago, and possibly almost 52,000 years ago. It dates back to at least 40,000 years ago, a new study says.
"It now seems that two early cave art provinces arose at a similar time in remote corners of Palaeolithic Eurasia: one in Europe and one in Indonesia, at the opposite end of this ice age world", said Adam Brum, an archaeologist involved in the study, in a press release issued by Griffith University.
"We also want to date more rock art in order to refine the minimum and maximum ages for each styles and also find out how long they lasted", Aubert concluded.
However, they did not know when exactly the illustrations had been made until recently.
The painting in Borneo, possibly depicting a native type of wild cattle, is among thousands of artworks discovered decades ago in the remote region. We now know that the famous cave art of Europe "is just one area where such expression occurred 40,000 years ago", she says.
The discovery was also published in the global scientific journal Nature under the title of "Palaeolithic cave art in Borneo".
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This composite image from the book "Borneo, Memory of the Caves" shows the world's oldest figurative artwork dated to a minimum of 40,000 years, in a limestone cave in the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo.
The bottom-most and oldest layer featured paintings of animals, mostly a local type of cattle, as well as hand stencils in a reddish colour. In addition to the bull, which is about 5 feet (1.5 meters) wide, they dated red- and purple-colored hand stencils and cave paintings of human scenes.
Scientists note that, while Borneo is Earth's third largest island, for most of the Ice Age, it formed the easternmost tip of the vast continental region of Eurasia.
Whether new waves of people migrating from Africa brought the skills of figurative cave painting with them, or whether these arts emerged later, remains unclear. This lovely region is remote and difficult-to-access, and contains numerous caves, some of which contain remarkable drawings made by early humans.
Limestone karst of East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.
Using uranium-series dating of calcium carbonate samples from one painting in particular, the team were able to work out its age. "We see the same thing in Europe at more or less the same time", Aubert said. Research also indicates that a significant change occurred in this culture 20,000 years ago when a new style involving freakish representations of human beings. "It's an intimate window into the past". Combined with the Sulawesi art, the East Kalimantan art represents a shift in how we need to think about global culture.
Mulberry-colored hand stencils. Image credits: Kinez Riza. "But the fact that many of them are in places that are hard to access, where people don't normally live, suggests a "ritual" element in their creation", he added. "Who the ice age artists of Borneo were and what happened to them is a mystery", Pindi Setiawan from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) in Indonesia said in the statement. Which means that we might soon find out who these peoples were, or at least what they lived like.