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Indonesian Cave Art Constitutes Oldest Human Depiction of Supernatural Beings

By Tim Binnall

An intriguing ancient cave painting found in Indonesia is believed to be the oldest depiction of supernatural beings ever created by humans. The discovery was reportedly made as archaeologists were studying such ancient glimpses of the past on the island of Sulawesi, where rock art is particularly prevalent. Although the area has been fairly well explored by researchers, this particular set of drawings was only uncovered when one of the scientists spotted a cavern heretofore unknown to experts.

"There's this incredible rock art in there that's unlike anything we've ever seen before in this entire region," marveled archaeologist Adam Brumm. The artwork found in the cave depicts eight odd-looking people hunting some pigs and small buffalo. Subsequent carbon dating indicated that the drawings were likely created a whopping 44,000 years ago and, in turn, constitutes the oldest hunting scene ever crafted by human hands. What that alone is quite remarkable, there is another historic aspect to the artwork when it comes to how the hunters themselves were drawn.

The entities in the picture are what experts call 'therianthropes,' which are part-human, part-animal beings, in that they look like people but also sport attributes like beaks and tails. While such supernatural figures have been depicted by cultures around the world for ages, these newfound drawings in Indonesia are the oldest such instance of this occurring. "It suggested to us," Brumm explained, "this extraordinary scene shows some sort of story or myth." To that end, experts argue that the cave art is the earliest form of religious or spiritual thinking exhibited by humans ever to be found.

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