Indonesia's 51,200 Years Old Narrative Cave Art

The journey and the discovery at Leang Karampuang

Aerial view of Karampuang Hill (2024) by Dominic JulianArchaeological, Language and Literature Research Organization

Welcome to Bukit Karampuang, Maros, Sulawesi

In 2017, a routine expedition in search for rock art was funded by Balai Pelestarian Kebudayaan Wilayah XIX from the Directorate General of Culture, Ministry of Education and Culture. A team of explorers including archaeologists and Guards for Cultural Heritage was dispatched.

Climbing up the cave (2024)Archaeological, Language and Literature Research Organization

The journey

Beginning at Simbang Subdistrict, the expedition worked its way to the Karampuang Hill, 84 Km away. It took days of spelunking (the hobby or practice of exploring caves) in and out of caves to check for traces of rock art.

Safety check inside Leang Karampuang (2024)Archaeological, Language and Literature Research Organization

The discovery: Leang Karampuang is found

Oki Amrullah, a Cultural Heritage Guard, noticed red brush marks in a narrow cave opening 4 meters up a karst, on Karampuang Hill. He climbed up into the narrow opening to inspect the cave. Upon his discovery, he called in the rest of the team to do a more thorough survey.

Amrullah, reminisces about the expedition days and finding Leang Karampuang.

Leang Karampuang expedition (2017) by Ratno Sardi, Adhi Agus Oktaviana, and HamrullahArchaeological, Language and Literature Research Organization

Images from the 2017 investigation

The map shows the length and shape of the cave. 
a) Location of the cave
b) Cave entry is 5 meters high
c) View from inside the cave
d & e) First recordings of the rock art

Two large chambers and a terrace

They found an astonishing series of cave paintings drawn from one end of the cave to the other. These included hand paintings, human figures, a group of pigs, and other animals. Other findings in and around the cave included pottery, shells, arrowheads and human remains.

Timelapse of rock art recording

Imaging of Leang Karampuang Rock Art (2024) by Adhi Agus Oktaviana, Ratno Sardi, Dewangga Eka Mahardian, and Adam BrummArchaeological, Language and Literature Research Organization


Map showing the location of the different cave paintings at Leang Karampuang

Dating panel positions

The different dates show that the paintings were created at different times. The oldest painting has been dated at 51,200 years old and the most recent has been dated at 18,350 years old.

Enhanced image of pig at Leang Karampuang (2024)Archaeological, Language and Literature Research Organization

Enhanced image of a painting of a pig

This is a D-stretch image of a section of the Leang Karampuang cave showing an image of a pig. D-stretch or Decorrelation Stretch is a method used to digitally enhance images of rock art.

Interior view of Karampuang Cave (2024)Archaeological, Language and Literature Research Organization

Raw image of a painting of a pig

This is a photograph of the cave painting without digital enhancement.

Karampuang (2024)Archaeological, Language and Literature Research Organization

Raw image of a painting of a pig

This is a photograph of a different pig from the same cave painting. Can you see it?

A DStretch enhancement of wild pig at the ceiling of Leang Karampuang (2024) by Adhi Agus OktavianaArchaeological, Language and Literature Research Organization

Enhanced image of a painting of a pig

Is this a bit clearer? An enhanced (D-Stretch) image of a cave painting of a wild pig at Leang Karampuang. This image has clear detail of hair on the top of the head and has detail of the feet.

Adhi Agus Oktaviana, archaeologist (2024)Archaeological, Language and Literature Research Organization

Indonesia and the world's human history

Leang Karampuang cave painting holds the oldest human message recorded in the world, to date. This painting is an important piece that connects and traces our entire human history all the way back, 51,000 years ago, to the Indonesian region.

The earliest hunting scene from Bulu Sipong 4, Pangkep (2019) by Adhi Agus Oktaviana and Maxime AubertArchaeological, Language and Literature Research Organization

More to explore

Learn about the world's oldest hunting scene at Leang Bulu Sipong 4, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

The World's Oldest Hunting Scene

The research was made possible by collaboration efforts from various government bodies, universities and communities.

Credits: Story

In collaboration with:
School of Humanities, Languages & Social Science
Centre for Social & Cultural Research
Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution
 Griffith University, Australia 
Pusat Riset Arkeometri, Organisasi Riset Arkeologi, Bahasa, dan Sastra, Badan Risetdan Inovasi Nasional, Center for Prehistory & Austronesian Studies, Jakarta
Geoarchaeology & Archaeometry Research Group, Southern Cross University, Australia
Pusat Riset Arkeologi Prasejarah dan Sejarah, Organisasi Riset Arkeologi 
Pusat Riset Arkeologi Lingkungan, Maritim, dan Budaya Berkelanjutan 
Pusat Kolaborasi Riset Arkeologi Sulawesi
 Bahasa, dan Sastra, Badan Riset dan Inovasi Nasional, Jakarta
Korps Pecinta Alam 
Departemen Arkeologi, Fakultas Ilmu Budaya 
 Universitas Hasanuddin, Makassar
Balai Pelestarian Kebudayaan Wilayah XIX, Makassar
Badan Layanan Umum Museum dan Cagar Budaya, Direktorat Jenderal Kebudayaan, Jakarta
KK Desain Komunikasi Visual, Fakulta Seni Rupa dan Desain,  Institut Teknologi Bandung

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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