Indonesian Cave Art | Humans First Communication Of Creativity And Consciousness


Hidden in the Luban Jeriah Saleh caves of East Kalimantan are the oldest examples of figurative art in the world.

These findings and their Indonesian location have profound implications for our understanding of history, art and the evolution of consciousness itself.

These ancient artists and their mysterious tribes remain lost to history. All that remains is their art.

In fact, Indonesia is making name for itself as the ancestral epicentre of ancient cave art.


There are over a thousand of these art works in caves across Indonesia.

Caves provided the perfect natural canvas for Indonesia’s creative ancients. These natural galleries of prehistory protected their works from weathering as well as holding special tribal importance.

Across the Makassar Strait in the Moras Caves of South West Sulawesi are hundreds of artistic vestiges left by Indonesian tribes.

Even before the Great Flood circa 13,000 years ago, Sulawesi was an island distinct from Sundaland - the land mass that connected much of the modern Indonesian archipelago to the Asian and African continents.

This means that the Moras cave artists must have been members of advanced seafaring cultures, perhaps even the first humans to take to the seas.

In the same vein of adventure, it was French explorer Luc-Henri Farage that discovered the Kalimantan cave paintings in 1994.

But it wasn’t until recently that Uranium Series Analysis was developed that could accurately date the cave art.

Dr Aubert has lead the archaeological decoding of both the Kalimantan and Moras Caves.

Red Ochre seems to have been the paint of choice for the ancient artists.

Ochre is an iron oxide-based clay earth pigment, perfect for marking walls of caves, though even the original artists would have been surprised by their longevity.

Red-Orange Ochre Hand Stencil = Upper Limit 51,800 Years-Old

The first figurative forms of art are stencils. Fitting that the Graffiti artists of today still maintain the same technique as their ancient forbears on our urban wall canvases.


Sulawesi Hand Stencil = 39,900 Years-Old

By blowing Ochre paint from the mouth onto the hand, ancient people were able to leave the first artistic expressions.


Another Kalimantan Ochre Hand Stencil = 37,200 Years-Old

The hand stencils are common motifs globally in ancient cave art. It’s almost like our ancestors were saying:

“We Are Here!”


Dark Purple Hand Stencil = 21,000-20,000 Years-Old

The more recent art works bring a purple shade of ochre.


Red Orange Kalimantan Animal = 40,000 Years-Old

Archaeologists suggest this is animal depiction is most likely a Banteng, a local buffalo species still present in Kalimantan.


Female Babirusa (Pig-Deer) Sulawesi = 35,400 Years Old

The Moras Cave tribes also appear to be celebrating the wild animals of their surroundings.


Dark Purple Images Of People In Head Gear, Boats And Geometric Shapes = 13,600 Years-Old

These seemingly dancing figures lend archeologists to suspect these tribes developed into deeply religious cultures.

It’s been suggested that the artists could also have been tribal shamans.


Significance Of Cave Art To Human Evolution

Lined drawings have been found in Africa that are over 70,000 years-old, representing the oldest known “art-work”.

But there’s a crucial difference between these comparatively simple line drawings and the figurative art that erupted across the world around 40,000 years ago.


Despite the fact that we are cognitively identical to our Homo Sapiens ancestors of 70,000 years ago, the difference in creative capacity represents a quantum leap in imagination.

The greatest and unresolved mystery of history is the development of human consciousness.

Cave Art is our oldest-lasting insight into the collective self-awareness of Homo Sapiens.

Recognising our place in time and space is the prerequisite of the human creative capacity.

The first human hand stencils represent our ancestors first ability and desire to communicate their consciousness.

A desire to communicate a novel, powerful understanding:

“We Are Here”

Photos Source: The Guardian

James Buchanan