Climate change is destroying the oldest cave paintings in the world

Rock art monitoring sample recording on L Jing, March 26 2021
Rock art monitoring sample recording on L Jing, March 26 2021 Copyright Griffith University
Copyright Griffith University
By Doloresz Katanich
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Archaeologists have observed 44,000-year-old paintings appear to be blistering and peeling off the cave walls.


Archaeological research has found that the world's oldest prehistoric artworks, discovered in Indonesia, are disappearing. Climate change is to blame.

In caves on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, archaeologists have discovered the oldest known cave art, some as old as 44,000 years. 

This record of ancient life and customs was in a relatively good state in the 1950s but in the last decades, it has been disappearing at an alarming rate. Its deterioration is accelerating in step with climate change.

Griffith University in South East Queensland, Australia has led the research to reveal the reasons behind it. Together, with a team of Australian and Indonesian archaeological scientists, conservation specialists and heritage managers they documented the reasons behind the increasing loss of painted limestone cave surfaces at 11 cave sites in the Maros-Pangkep karst.

The recently published study states that one of the factors putting these ancient Indonesian paintings in danger is that they are located in the tropics, where global warming can be up to three times higher than in Europe.

Click on the video above to learn more about the effect of climate change on ancient cave art.

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