BPCB explores prehistoric rock art in Kisar

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Rock art from Kisar. Source: Antara 20181124

via Antara News, 24 November 2018:

Rock art from Kisar. Source: Antara 20181124

Rock art from Kisar. Source: Antara 20181124

North Maluku Cultural Heritage Preservation Agency (BPCB) explored the legacy of prehistoric rock art in the form of hand-drawn paintings and other motifs on walls of caves on Kisar Island, Southwest Maluku District, Maluku Province.

“We trace the rock art paintings` record and register them as national cultural reserves, so that they can be maintained, for they are the proof of the cultural value of prehistoric civilizations,” North Maluku BPCB Head Muhammad Husni remarked in Wonreli recently.

Based in Ternate, with a working area covering the provinces of Maluku, North Maluku, Papua, and West Papua, the BPCB began the search for prehistoric cultural paintings on Kisar Island since November 17, 2018.

Source: BPCB explores prehistoric rock art in Kisar – ANTARA News

Categories: Indonesia Rock Art

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Management of large-scale rock art areas Survey

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Researchers at Griffith University are conducting a survey about rock art landscape management – help them out through the link below:

This research is part of an Australian Research Council (ARC) funded program called ‘Australian rock art history, conservation and Indigenous well-being’ at Griffith University. The overall aim of the project is to ensure that rock art landscapes are better conserved, appreciated and understood for the benefit of local communities and future generations.

This survey has been designed by Dr. Sally K. May and Prof. Paul S.C. Taçon in order to better understand national and international trends in the management of large-scale rock art landscapes. The information will be collated for a report and publications on this topic.

For this study, we broadly define a large-scale rock art area as one in which more than 10 individual rock art sites are found. While the definition of a separate ‘site’ is different internationally, for simplicity we would define it here as a place with rock art clearly separated from other places (by distance or geology). The size of the actual area is not our major concern, rather it is the number of individual sites within that landscape that you are involved in helping to care for. If you are unsure please feel free to contact us for clarification.

Source: Management of large-scale rock art areas Survey

Palaeolithic cave art in Borneo

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via Nature and various news sources, 07 November 2018: Burning up my news feeds today is a newly-published paper in Nature about new dates from rock art in Borneo. A painting of a ‘banteng’ is at least 40,000 years old, making it the oldest figurative painting in the world and adds to other similarly-dated rock art in Sulawesi. Other dates discovered also suggest multiple periods of painting from the last 50,000 years. Congrats to Max Aubert and team!

Figurative cave paintings from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi date to at least 35,000 years ago (ka) and hand-stencil art from the same region has a minimum date of 40 ka1. Here we show that similar rock art was created during essentially the same time period on the adjacent island of Borneo. Uranium-series analysis of calcium carbonate deposits that overlie a large reddish-orange figurative painting of an animal at Lubang Jeriji Saléh—a limestone cave in East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo—yielded a minimum date of 40 ka, which to our knowledge is currently the oldest date for figurative artwork from anywhere in the world. In addition, two reddish-orange-coloured hand stencils from the same site each yielded a minimum uranium-series date of 37.2 ka, and a third hand stencil of the same hue has a maximum date of 51.8 ka. We also obtained uranium-series determinations for cave art motifs from Lubang Jeriji Saléh and three other East Kalimantan karst caves, which enable us to constrain the chronology of a distinct younger phase of Pleistocene rock art production in this region. Dark-purple hand stencils, some of which are decorated with intricate motifs, date to about 21–20 ka and a rare Pleistocene depiction of a human figure—also coloured dark purple—has a minimum date of 13.6 ka. Our findings show that cave painting appeared in eastern Borneo between 52 and 40 ka and that a new style of parietal art arose during the Last Glacial Maximum. It is now evident that a major Palaeolithic cave art province existed in the eastern extremity of continental Eurasia and in adjacent Wallacea from at least 40 ka until the Last Glacial Maximum, which has implications for understanding how early rock art traditions emerged, developed and spread in Pleistocene Southeast Asia and further afield.

Source: Palaeolithic cave art in Borneo | Nature

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Sigiriya frescoes to be scanned and digitised

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via FT Online, 20 October 2018: The frescoes of the Sigiriya World Heritage site are to be scanned and digitised.

Sigiriya Frescoes. Source: FT Online, 20181020

Sigiriya Frescoes. Source: FT Online, 20181020

The news that the Sigiriya frescoes and graffiti are being copied using laser technology is indeed a welcome move. The frescoes dating back to the 5th century are accepted as the oldest examples of mediaeval paintings in Sri Lanka. The need to preserve them for posterity has been discussed on and off and finally it has been made possible due to modern technology.

Source: Preserving for posterity | FT Online

Perak govt plans to shut access to prehistoric Gua Tambun rock paintings

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via Malay Mail, 10 July 2018: Gua Tambun is a site that I know very well – I studied it for my MA research a decade ago and have gone back to the site every couple of years. The news article incorrectly calls it the largest site in Southeast Asia, although it is one of the largest sites in the region. From the images in the news story the forest growth has been the heaviest that I’ve seen. The site has always had a problem with maintenance, but most of the rock art itself is well protected because it is out of reach of human hands. If anyone knows how to put me in touch with the relevant authorities, please send me an email – I would be very willing to help with the site’s rehabilitation.

Source: Perak govt plans to shut access to prehistoric Gua Tambun rock paintings | Malay Mail

New Buddhist rock art at Wat Phraphuttachai, Saraburi

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New Buddhist rock art at Wat Phraphuttachai, practically invisible to the naked eye. Only parts of the "wings" can be seen easily.

Over the weekend, fellow rock art enthusiast Francesco Germi and I took a day trip from Bangkok to Saraburi province to visit Wat Phraphuttachai, a temple known for its Buddhist and ‘prehistoric’ rock art. For my doctoral research, I studied rock art sites across Mainland Southeast Asia that had later become religious shrines and so this site was of some personal interest.

Wat Phraphuttachai, Saraburi province, Thailand

Wat Phraphuttachai, Saraburi province, Thailand

Wat Phraphuttachai is located on a cliff face and the gold-roofed pavilion at the side of the cliff contains its namesake: a Buddhist rock painting in which is said to be an imprint of the Buddha himself.

Buddha's imprint, the 'Phraphutthachai' of Wat Phraphuttachai

Buddha’s imprint, the ‘Phraphutthachai’ of Wat Phraphuttachai

Just beside the entrance of this pavilion is a small section of wall that contain some other rock paintings. The rock art, which was gazetted by the Fine Arts Department in 1935, consists of hand prints, some honeycomb designs and an assortment of fragmentary red paintings. Most are extremely hard to see today.

The cliff side of Wat Phraphuttachai. The rock art is located just to the right of the pavilion's entrance, behind the Buddha statues.

The cliff side of Wat Phraphuttachai. The rock art is located just to the right of the pavilion’s entrance, behind the Buddha statues.

Red handprints and examples of very faded paintings at the site

Red hand prints and examples of very faded paintings at the site.

It wasn’t until we got back home and started to analyse our pictures with DStretch that we realised that one section of the wall with fragmentary paintings was actually a massive and magnificent image of the Buddha! Like the Phraphutthachai image, this Buddha is also life-sized but is more embellished.

New Buddhist rock art at Wat Phraphuttachai, practically invisible to the naked eye. Only parts of the "wings" can be seen easily.

New Buddhist rock art at Wat Phraphuttachai, practically invisible to the naked eye. Only parts of the “wings” can be seen easily.

I’m wondering now if the paintings all belong to the historic Buddhist period, rather than a two-layer prehistoric-then-Buddhist occupation. It could be some of the earlier paintings that were called human and animal figures were really misidentified. Finding this elaborate Buddhist image was quite cool, and if any readers could comment on the style of art, we would like to hear them – leave a comment below. For now, we have submitted a preliminary report of the finding to the Fine Arts Department of Thailand.

Ancient paintings found in Krabi cave

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via The Nation, 07 June 2018: New rock art discovered in Southern Thailand – very exciting, and there seems to be some clear similarities with other rock art sites in the region which may indicate a local style.

More than 60 ancient paintings, thought to be around 3,000-5,000 years old, have been found at the Khao Pru Tee Mae cliff in Mount Chong Lom, Ao Luek, Krabi.

Source: Ancient paintings found in Krabi cave – The Nation

[Paper] Ideology, Ritual Performance and Its Manifestations in the Rock Art of Timor-Leste and Kisar Island, Island Southeast Asia

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New paper on newly-discovered rock art on Kisar Island, Indonesia by O’Connor et al. published in the Cambridge Archaeology Journal. What’s really interesting in this paper is the fact that the paintings have some similarities with those from East Timor, about 20 km across the sea.

Painted rock art occurs throughout the islands of the Western Pacific and has previously been argued to have motif and design elements in common, indicating that it was created within the context of a shared symbolic system. Here we report five new painted rock-art sites from Kisar Island in eastern Indonesia and investigate the commonalities between this art and the painted art corpus in Timor-Leste, the independent nation that forms the eastern part of the neighbouring island of Timor. We examine the motifs in the Kisar art and suggest that, rather than being Neolithic in age, some of the figurative motifs more likely have a Metal Age origin, which in this region places them within the last 2500 years.

Source: Ideology, Ritual Performance and Its Manifestations in the Rock Art of Timor-Leste and Kisar Island, Island Southeast Asia | Cambridge Archaeological Journal | Cambridge Core

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Indonesian island found to be unusually rich in cave paintings

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via the Australian National University, 13 December 2017:

A tiny Indonesian island, previously unexplored by archaeologists, has been found to be unusually rich in ancient cave paintings following a study by researchers from The Australian National University (ANU). The team uncovered a total of 28 rock art sites dating from at least 2,500 years ago on the island of Kisar which measures just 81 square kilometres and lies north of Timor-Leste.

Source: Indonesian island found to be unusually rich in cave paintings

New Paper: Rock art and the colonisation of Southeast Asia

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Over the past decade, archaeologists have been able to directly date rock art, particularly in Island Southeast Asia at sites in East Kalimantan, East Timor and South Sulawesi. The dates of rock art indicate that modern humans were creating rock art during the Pleistocene, comparable to similar rock art in Europe. In this paper by Aubert et al., the authors note that the presence of these sites and dates now begs the question, did the ability to create rock art move out of Africa with human migrations, or did it erupt independently in different parts of the world? Also within Island Southeast Asia, did rock art develop from a specific place and spread throughout prehistoric Sahul, or did it arise independently among different communities in the region?

Recent technological developments in scientific dating methods and their applications to a broad range of materials have transformed our ability to accurately date rock art. These novel breakthroughs in turn are challenging and, in some instances, dramatically changing our perceptions of the timing and the nature of the development of rock art and other forms of symbolic expression in various parts of the late Pleistocene world. Here we discuss the application of these methods to the dating of rock art in Southeast Asia, with key implications for understanding the pattern of recent human evolution and dispersal outside Africa.

The Timing and Nature of Human Colonization of Southeast Asia in the Late Pleistocene: A Rock Art Perspective – Current Anthropology
https://doi.org/10.1086/694414