Can you draw better than a 40,000 year old?
Can you draw better than a 40,000 year old? Stencils of hands in a cave in Indonesia (AP Photo / Kinez Riza, Nature Magazine)
Can you draw better than a 40,000 year old?
Lexile: 710L

Assign to Google Classroom

What can be learned from ancient cave drawings? Some found in Indonesia have turned out to be pretty special. They are as old as famous prehistoric art in Europe.

The news comes from a new study. It could mean humans were creative earlier than scientists had thought.

The art was found in Sulawesi. That's southwest of Borneo. The art has been known since 1950. It is between 35,000 and 40,000 years old. New technology determined the age of the art. That technology wasn't available in 1950. The drawings are a dozen stencils of hands in mulberry red and two detailed drawings of an animal described as a "pig-deer."

That puts the art found in Sulawesi in the same rough time period as drawings found in Spain and a famous cave in France.

One of the Indonesian handprints is at least 39,900 years old. That makes it the oldest hand stencil known to science. That's according to a study published in the journal Nature.

"Whoa, it was not expected," said the study's lead author, Maxime Aubert. She works at Griffith University in Australia.

The details on the animal drawings are "really, really well-made," Aubert said. "Then when you look at it in context that it's really 40,000 years old, it's amazing."

Scientist John Shea of Stony Brook University in New York called this an important discovery. It changes what science thought about early humans and art, he said. He did not take part in the study.

Knowing when art started is important, Aubert said. "It kind of defines us as a species," he said.

The European and Asian art are essentially the same age. That means art may have developed separately and at roughly the same time in different parts of the world. Or it's "more likely, that when humans left Africa 65,000 years ago, they were already evolved with the capacity to make paintings," Aubert said.

Ancient art hasn't been found much in Africa. The geology doesn't preserve it.

Shea and others lean toward the earlier art theory.

Source URL:

Filed Under:  
Assigned 24 times

  • taryn23
    10/13/2014 - 12:30 p.m.

    this is a cool article the title really draws your attention this article has a lot of info really for the artists
    out there I say this is a good article

  • noah88113
    10/13/2014 - 12:30 p.m.

    I think that it is a real hand because it is in the ice I think. and how did he get that hand in there.

  • meganw-Bla
    10/13/2014 - 08:18 p.m.

    I read the article about would you be able to draw better than a 40,000 year old. Well this is my summary. Some cave drawings are very old and unique. When you see a cave drawing its not so ordinary well what would you think if you found a cave drawing would it be ordinary? Well sometimes they look ordinary but they're actually really unique. You can't find cave drawings in any cave they are in certain places like Indonesia. That is my summary of can you draw better than a 40,000 year old.

  • Ashley0207-yyca
    10/13/2014 - 09:35 p.m.

    This is an awesome article about ancient paintings. I think it is awesome because I haven't learn much about ancient paintings and I want to learn more. I agree that some of the paintings will be very old because it was drawn a long time ago. I learned that some ancient paintings are about 65,000 years old. I am amazed because scientists think that people long time were very intelligent by drawing pictures by themselves to tell something.

  • pennyw-Bla
    10/14/2014 - 02:10 p.m.

    40,000 year old art was found in a cave in Indonesia. This means humans were doing art earlier than scientists thought. The art was discovered in 1950, but they just now figured out how old it was. Many other places around the world have art that is just as old. Scientists think that when people left Africa 65,000 years ago, humans could already make art.

  • orahf-
    10/15/2014 - 12:28 p.m.

    The story was about drawing that artwork that need to make some good picture. It took place in Europe in a thousand years. I think that it is very cool to do this picture of a hand because it is a good picture to do.

  • bradyh502
    10/21/2014 - 02:29 p.m.

    How do they know how old it is? It is on bumpy rock! I could never draw that good, and rock would be really hard.

Leave a comment
Leave a comment