New research has found that some of the world’s oldest rock art is declining at an alarming rate and that the reason for this disappearance is probably suspicious climate change. Most of the world’s oldest cave art is found in Indonesia, along with some of the oldest impressive artwork – you may recall the fat-bellied pig, which was worldwide news in January – and the oldest known stencil handprints.
These are under threat from aggressive weather due to the climate crisis, a team documenting the erosion of the limestone cave surface painted in the Sulawesi report in the scientific report. We rewrote textbooks about when and where the ancients formed an artistic trend, dating back to ghostly handprints and animal images in the Sulawesi caves at least 35,000 years ago in 2014, and what it means for human knowledge. Subsequent discoveries, such as scenes from pigs and the oldest hunting scene, where “supernatural” creatures were also depicted, date back another 44,000-45,500 years.
Until 2014, it was thought that the origin of the cave industry was in the Ice Age caves in France and Spain. And yet there was evidence that people in other parts of the world probably developed it even earlier. Indonesia is located in the tropics, one of the most atmospherically dynamic places in the world where global warming can be three times higher than anywhere else. The team, led by Dr Jillian Huntley, a rock art conservation expert at the Griffith Center for Social and Cultural Research in Australia, knew the paintings had been deteriorating rapidly for decades, so an analysis of the process at Maros-Pangkep 11 Rock Art Site Analysis decided to explore the process.
They found individual rocks from the cave walls and salts with calcium sulfate and sodium chloride in three places. These salts form crystals on the surface of the rock which causes it to separate. They also found high levels of sulfur at 11 sites.
However, they were shocked by the amount of salt weather. They recorded the loss of multiple hand-sized flexes from these art panels in just 5 months.
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