Stone faces found in Timor cave

Researchers working in the Lene Hara Cave in eastern tip of East Timor have reported a previously-undiscovered set of stone carvings of faces. U/Th dating of the petroglyphs put them to be between 10,000 and 12,000 years old.

Stone Faces from East Timor, Brisbane Times 20110214

Faces of the ancestors revealed: discovery and dating of a Pleistocene-age petroglyph in Lene Hara Cave, East Timor
O’Connor et al, 2010. Antiquity 84:325, pp 649-665

Face to face with 10,000 year-old carvings
Brisbane Times, 14 Feb 2011

SE Asia’s oldest rock carving found by surprise
Australian Geographic, 15 Feb 2011

An Australian scientist searching for the fossilised bones of giant rats in a cave in East Timor has discovered ancient stone carvings of human faces, the first found on the island.

One of the faces, which has sunbeam-like rays coming out of it, has been dated at 10,000 to 12,000 years old.

A CSIRO researcher and rat expert, Ken Aplin, said he was on the rocky floor of Lene Hara Cave, when he looked up and light from his head torch glanced across its dark wall, revealing the strange images.
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”Just by chance, being down at the right angle, I could see the old weathered engravings on that surface,” Dr Aplin said.

Different groups of researchers have carried out excavations in the cave since the 1960s but had never noticed the carvings.

Dr Aplin said the landowners, who often accompany scientists to perform rituals in the cave, were also shocked by the find.


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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