The archeologists have dug a cave in Indonesia, which revealed a unique collection of prehistoric ornaments and artworks that date back in some instances to at least 30,000 years ago. That site is believed to have been used by some of the amazing cave artists. This finding challenges the belief that the hunter-gatherer communities in the Ice Age of Southeast Asia were culturally impoverished and their spiritual lives transformed as they encountered previously unknown species on the journey from Asia to Australia.
The human journey Beyond Asia And Findings From Ice Age Sulawesi
Apparently, the modern humans colonised Australia about 50000 years ago. It was a journey that required crossing continental Eurasia into Wallacea, a swathe of island chains spanning the ocean between Asia and Australia. The archeologists have speculated about the cultural lives of homo sapiens to enter Wallacea, but some argued ice age attained a high level of complexity as Homo sapiens spread into Europe and as far east as India; also that decline in sophistication happened as people ventured into the tropics of Southeast Asia and Wallacea.
But the new research has something else to depict. The researchers found previously undocumented symbolic artefacts, dating back to 22000 to 30000 years, excavated from a limestone cavern on Sulawesi, which is the largest island in Wallacea.
What Kind Of Artefacts Were Found?
The artefacts that the researchers excavated out, included disc-shaped beads made from the tooth of a babirusa, a primitive pig found only on Sulawesi, and a pendant that was fashioned from the finger bone of a bear cuscus, and a large possum-like creature also unique to Sulawesi. They also discovered stones with crosses, and inscriptions like leaf and geometric patterns.
Further evidences were shown by the abundant traces of rock art production gleaned from the cave excavations, including used ochre pieces, ochre stains on tools and a bone tube, which might have been an air brush. All these were same age as the cave painting found on limestone hills. Prior to research, it was not clear if the Sulawesi adorned themselves with ornaments, or if their art extended beyond rock painting.
Early Art And Ornaments From Wallacea
Previous cave excavations have unearthed 42,000 year old shells used as jewellery, in Timor-Leste (East Timor), and in 2014, the researchers claimed that cave art from Sulawesi is among the oldest surviving on the planet. In a cave, there is a depiction of human hand, about 40000 years old, and a painting of a babirusa that was created at least 35,400 years ago. These artworks are compatible in age with the ones of rhinos, mammoths and other animals from France and Spain. Looking at all these evidences, it appears that the story about early humans in Wallacea being less culturally advanced, is wrong.
Because of the inaccessibility of Wallacea, these islands tend to be inhabited by relatively few land mammals and endemic lineages might have arisen due to their isolation. Sulawesi, being the weirdest islands of all, its terrestrial mammals, except for bats, occur nowhere else on earth.
The discovery of ornaments manufactured from the bones and teeth of babirusas and bear cuscuses, near-absence of babirusas from the cave inhabitants’ diet, coupled with the portrayal of these animals in their art suggests that these rare and elusive creatures had acquired particular symbolic value in Ice Age human culture, probably the first Sulawesians felt a spiritual connection with them.
This social interaction was apparently essential to the initial human colonisation of Australia with its unprecedentedly rich communities of endemic faunas and floras, including many species of megafauna that are now extinct. In fact, the aboriginal cultures of Australia characterised by the complex human-animal spiritual relationships could well have their roots in the initial passage of people through Wallacea.