The discovery of 44,000 years old artwork well preserved enough to study would be momentous in itself. However, what’s really exciting about this finding is what it represents. Storytelling is founded on imagination; the ability to create beyond what exists. It’s part of what makes us human so it’s fascinating to see how long we’ve been imagining together.
Cave art on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi is the earliest example ever found at 44,000 years old. The record was previously held by other paintings on the same island dating back 35,000 years.
This latest ancient discovery was made two years ago, but has just been documented in the journal Nature.
As for the content, it’s believed to be mythological shapeshifters hunting animals – possibly the earliest evidence of narrative storytelling. The discovery may help scientists understand when humans developed this essential ability, which sets us apart from other animals.
The key difference here is an overarching theme, rather than being mere figurative art.