Climate Change impact on Cave Arts of Sulawesi Island of Indonesia

What is the News?

A new Australian study has suggested that climate change may be accelerating the degradation of Pleistocene-era rock paintings located in the Sulawesi Island of Indonesia. It is the world’s oldest cave art.

About the study:
  • Australian and Indonesian archaeological scientists conducted the study. 
  • The scientists examined around 11 caves and rock-shelters in the Maros-Pangkep region in Sulawesi Island of Indonesia.
  • These are Pleistocene-era rock paintings dating back to 45,000-20,000 years ago.

Which are those ancient cave arts of Indonesia? Some important artworks include:

  • Firstly, the world’s oldest hand stencil (almost 40,000 years ago): It was created by pressing the hand on a cave wall and spraying wet red-mulberry pigments over it.
  • Secondly, the world’s oldest depiction of an animal (almost 45,500 years ago): The animal depicted is a warty pig painted on the wall.
  • Lastly, one of the caves contains what researchers describe as possibly the earliest known narrative scene in prehistoric art depicting a hunting scene.
Key Findings of the study:

 Salts on Rocks:

  • The researchers studied the flakes of rock that have begun to detach from cave surfaces.
  • It found salts such as calcium sulphate and sodium chloride on three of the cave samples.
  • These salts also form crystals on rock surfaces, causing them to break.
Change in Temperature and Humidity:
  • The artworks made with pigments are decaying due to a process known as haloclasty.
  • Haloclasty is a type of physical weathering caused by the growth of salt crystals. It occurs due to repeated changes in temperature and humidity, caused by alternating wet and dry weather in the region.

Natural Disasters:

  • Indonesia has also experienced several natural disasters in recent years, which have quickened the process of deterioration.
Recommendations:
  • Firstly, Researchers have recommended regular physical and chemical monitoring of the sites to reduce environmental degradation.
  • Secondly, preservation efforts undertaken at the French and Spanish prehistoric cave art sites such as Lascaux and Altamira should also be implemented here.

Source: Indian Express

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