Photo Credit of Map: OrangeSmile Tours B. V.

Oldest Known Art Gallery: 43,900 Years Old 

World’s oldest galleries hide in the caves of a remote mountain, or in an unfrequented mound of a hill. Probably most of them are discovered, and those that are discovered dating them to a particular era or year continues to be a daunting challenge for the scientists.

The world’s oldest known art gallery is located in a cave in Sulawesi. Sulawesi is an island in Indonesia. According to The Economist’s December 14th 2019 edition, the gallery was discovered by a team led by Adam Brumm of Griffith University in Australia. The most ancient pictures in it date from 43,900 years ago – 27,000 years before the well-known cave paintings at Lascaux in France. Among the exhibits in the gallery are: two pigs, four dwarf buffaloes, eight figures of human-animal figures (a human with a tail, a human with a beak, a human with a muzzle or snout).


Therianthropes refers to figures of with animal and human features. Many ancient civilisation’s arts and artefacts have therianthropes such as the jackal-headed Egyptian god.


Indian mythologies have many theriomorphic figures. Theriomorphic figures refers to having an animal form especially gods and godlings: Hanuman with a tail, Ganapathi or Vinayak or Duddiraja or Ganesh with elephant’s trunk among others.

The Economist reports, “One seems to have a tail, another a beak. Others have muzzles or snouts. Such constructs are known as therianthropes, and are found in many cultures (the centaurs of ancient Greece, for example, or the jackal-headed Egyptian god Anubis). The oldest known European therianthrope is a statue of a lion-headed man which dates from about 40,000 years ago. That ancient Sulawesians had similar ideas suggest that therianthropy has deep roots in human culture.”

Nature the science journal Nature published an article written by David Cyranoski on 8 October 2014 which was an analysis of images discovered in 1950s counters Eurocentric view of creativity’s origins with the title “World’s oldest art found in Indonesian cave”. But that report mentioned the same artwork in the same Indonesian cave and dated it as ‘at least 40,000 years’. This art gallery is the oldest human creative art unlike anywhere in the world: ‘pre-dating art from European caves’ refuting the Eurocentric view of the origins of human creativity and also suggests ‘human migration from Africa to the east’.

David Cyranoski wrote, ‘The analysis hints at “just what a wealth of undiscovered information there is in Asia”, says Alistair Pike, an archaeologist at the University of Southampton, UK, who in 2013 identified what had been considered the world’s oldest cave art, in Europe, and had no involvement in the current project. “This paper will likely prompt a hunt.”’ The article mentioned that ‘the Indonesian images discovered in a limestone cave on the island of Sulawesi in the 1950s, had previously been thought to date back only 10,000 years. Anything older would, it was assumed, have deteriorated’.

The pictures in the caves are drawn on the rocky walls with pigments made out of vegetables or natural dyes. To nail down the right year of a cave painting is a tricky issue for archaeologists and researchers in the background of evolving technology and unidentified treasures in the remote areas.

In India, a cave painting was discovered at Bhimbetka and it was dated to be 30,000 years old. Harnoor Channi-Tiwary wrote in about Bhimbetka which is 45 minutes from Bhopal the capital city of central Indian state called Madhya Pradesh. “At first glance, the larger-than-life rocks are imposing and majestic. It is easy to believe that they have been standing here since eternity—come rain, hail or sunshine. In fact, the smooth surfaces of some rocks also suggest that they were partially underwater at some point,” Harnoor wrote in the article after visiting the site. “But the beauty of Bhimbetka lies in the paintings it holds within its folds. Easily making the caves the oldest art gallery in India, and perhaps even in Asia, the paintings date back 30,000 years. What is also interesting is that the paintings are not from one era. Instead, there are many which are superimposed on older ones, giving evidence of the caves being used by humans through various periods. This allows historians to study continuity in human evolution and civilization.”


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