Lubang Jeriji Saléh
Lubang Jeriji Saléh
|Location||Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat Karst, Bengalon, East Kutai|
|Region||East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo|
Lubang Jeriji Saléh is a limestone cave complex in the Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat Karst located in the remote jungle of Bengalon district in East Kutai, East Kalimantan province on Borneo island, Indonesia. In a 2018 publication a team of researchers announced to have found the then-oldest known work of figurative art in the world among the cave paintings, at 40,000 years old. However, the same team has since found and dated an elaborate therianthrope rock art panel in the Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4 cave in Sulawesi's Maros-Pangkep karst to around 44,000 years old, older than the figurative art in Lubang Jeriji Saléh.
The Lubang Jeriji Saléh site is one among many caves, embedded in the steep mountains of East Kalimantan. Its walls and ceiling covered with hundreds of outlines of hands and outstretched fingers inside bursts of red-orange ochre or iron oxide paint and figurative cave paintings. An updated analysis of the cave walls suggests, that the oldest of the finger stencils are 52,000 years old and the earliest actual painting, a depiction of a banteng bull, was created around 40,000 years ago, tens of thousands of years earlier than previous datings. The bull, that belongs to a trio of rotund bovine creatures is over 5 ft (1.5 m) across, and also made from reddish-orange ochre on the cave's limestone walls.
Based on 2018 Uranium datings of small samples of the limestone crust, three phases of decoration were identified. The oldest contains the bull depiction and red-orange ochre hand stencils. During the second phase stencils in a mulberry colour along with intricate motifs and humans were created. Human figures, boats and geometric designs were identified as the work of the third and youngest phase.
The Kalimantan caves were explored in 1994 and the paintings first spotted by French caver Luc-Henri Fage. The 2018 team of researchers and scientists, led by Maxime Aubert from the Griffith University, Australia and Pindi Setiawan from the Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia had investigated the site, identified and dated the rock paintings as the world's oldest known figurative art and published the results in the Nature journal by the end of the year. The team has since found and dated an elaborate therianthrope rock art panel in the Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4 cave in Sulawesi, to around 44,000 years old, according to a 2019 publication. In order to date the paint pigments, the team applied Uranium series dating techniques on the calcium carbonate (limestone) particles which encrust the depictions.
The discovery of the cave paintings is important within human cultural history, as it adds to the view that cave art was created simultaneously in Southeast Asia and Europe. However, it is unknown which people created the paintings and what happened to them.
Francesco d'Errico, an expert in prehistoric art at the University of Bordeaux, described the investigation as a "major archaeological discovery", but also suggested that the discovery offered little information on the geographical origins of art.
- Art of the Upper Paleolithic
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