Maybe you’ve seen the film “Cave of Forgotton Dreams.” That’s Werner Herzog’s study of cave paintings in Europe, amazing, stunning, ancient artwork found deep in the earth. Until very recently Europe was the only place such sophisticated art was found, forming the basis of the argument (promulgated of course by European experts) that human modernity is demonstrated by symbolic thought and hence because art is symbolic and the cave art is the most sophisticated, “modern” humans first arose in Europe.
Well…..Nature Magazine now reports this:
A hand painted in an Indonesian cave dates to at least 39,900 years ago, making it among the oldest such images in the world, archaeologists reported Wednesday in a study that rewrites the history of art.The discovery on the island of Sulawesi vastly expands the geography of the first cave artists, who were long thought to have appeared in prehistoric Europe around that time. Reported in the journal Nature, the cave art includes stencils of hands and a painting of a babirusa, or “pig-deer,” which may be the world’s oldest figurative art.