November 7, 2018 | David F. Coppedge

Oldest Animal Cave Painting Baffles Evolutionary Anthropologists

How did cave art of animals appear on opposite sides of the world at the same time?

What’s being called the oldest cave painting of an animal has been dated by evolutionary anthropologists at a minimum of 40,000 years old. The baffling thing is that similar cave art in Europe dates to roughly the same time period, 37,000 years. And that’s not the only conundrum for evolutionary dates: later cave paintings on the same wall, overlapping the “oldest” ones, they date at 20,000 years and 4,000 years, respectively. The paper, published by Aubert et al in Nature, “Paleolithic Cave Art in Borneo,” ends:

It is now evident that rock art emerges in Borneo at around the same time as the earliest forms of artistic expression appear in Europe in association with the arrival of modern humans (45,000–43,000 calibrated years bp). Thus, similar cave art traditions appear to arise near-contemporaneously in the extreme west and extreme east of Eurasia. Whether this is a coincidence, the result of cultural convergence in widely separated regions, large-scale migrations of a distinct Eurasian population or another cause remains unknown.

Let’s briefly consider their four options:

  • Coincidence: this is no explanation at all. It’s the same as saying, “stuff happens.”
  • Cultural convergence: same as #1.
  • Large-scale migrations of a distinct Eurasian population: migration is plausible, but one would expect travelers on foot to leave many similar cave paintings along the way.
  • Another cause: same as #1.

Un-Human Timeline

The article on Live Science by Laura Geggel repeats the authors’ contention that the art was made in three phases wildly separated in time, by tens of thousands of years — much longer than the entire history of recorded civilization. There is a little bit of progression in subject matter, but not that much:

1. “The first phase, which dates to between 52,000 and 40,000 years ago, includes hand stencils and reddish-orange ochre-drawn animals,” Geggel claims. At that time, the island of Borneo was connected to the mainland, according to long-age geology.

2. “A major change happened to the culture during the icy Last Glacial Maximum about 20,000 years ago, which led to a new style of rock art — one that focused on the human world. The artists in this phase favored a dark mulberry-purple color and painted hand stencils, abstract signs and human-like figures wearing elaborate headdresses and engaging in various activities, such as hunting or ritualistic dancing, the researchers said.” And yet the hand stencils appear virtually identical to the older ones just inches away, which they claim were made at least 20,000 years before that.

We don’t know if these [different types of cave art] are from two different groups of humans, or if it represents the evolution of a particular culture,” Aubert said.

3. “The final phase of rock art includes humanlike figures, boats and geometric designs that were mostly drawn with black pigments, the researchers said.” They claim these are 4,000 years old, when Neolithic (stone age) farmers moved into the region. The island of Borneo was separated from the Malay peninsula by at least 330 miles long before that, according to the story.

The scientists used uranium-thorium dating of calcite deposits in the cave to make their timeline, extracting microscopic bits of it for dating. But given their results, they have no idea how to reconcile the long ages and “convergent” features so widely separated temporally and geographically. Scientists can always use humor for relief of bafflement caused by incredulity, by restating their dogma with a smile. quips,

That’s very cool, from a human point of view,” said Peter Veth, an archaeologist at the University of Western Australia, who was not involved in the study. “People adopted similar strategies in different environments as they became more modern.

The cave paintings were known since 1994, Live Science says, but were not radiometrically dated till now. The ochre bull painting is about 5 feet wide, showing good representation of musculature and form. The same kind of bull lives in Borneo today. As in Europe, the earliest cave art is of higher quality than the more recent drawings, which portray humans as simple stick-figures.

To see how ridiculous the evolutionists’ tale is, let’s recreate it with friends you know. Remember, the evolutionists are talking about fully modern humans making this art: modern Homo sapiens, with all the brain power and physical features we have, and probably less corrupted than ours because of our civilized lifestyles. Let’s assume four generations per century.

The story begins with people like you, before civilization, hunting and gathering and eating and sleeping. A few of them find a cave one day and decide to make hand prints on the wall. Another one draws a bull he had just slaughtered for the cave cookout. They go home, hunt, gather, grow old, and die. Their children hunt, gather, grow old, and die. Johnny gets so fed up with this tedious life, he asks mom and dad, “I’m so bored! Can’t we make a hut and plant some of these vegetables instead of walking so far to find them?” Two hundred centuries pass. In that time, 800 generations do nothing but hunt, gather, grow old, and die. Their land gradually separates from the mainland and becomes an island.

Finally, someone goes into the same cave, finds the hand prints, and decides to make more, using a different color. His friends etch some silly stick figures next to the prints and draw funny hair on top. They laugh and go home, and continue to hunt, gather, grow old, and die. More hundreds of generations pass. Susy is so fed up with this tedious life, she asks, “Can’t I have a pony for my birthday?” Johnny the Thousandth asks his parents, “Can’t I get a video game for a change? I’m sick of this life!” After 640 more generations have passed, someone enters the very same cave and draws more figures, which are not any better artistically than the first ones. Then something amazing happens. Poof! Civilization!

Who can believe this myth? We know what humans do. We know they are creative, inventive, and motivated to improve their lives. Why doesn’t anybody in the media stare down the scientists who write these silly tales and tell them, “Your story is incredible! Nobody could ever fall for it.” Why is there no critical thinker in the media questioning these vast eons where nothing interesting happens, but then civilization appears almost by magic? Here’s why: Darwin needs the time.

The Biblical story is so much more lifelike. It feels exactly like what we know to be true about human nature. Just a few thousand years ago, people with fallen natures but the image of God in them want to unite and build a tower, to make a name for themselves. When their plan is thwarted, they go their separate ways, each with complex languages. A few struggle to survive in harsh environments, but villages, towns, and cities emerge rapidly. Ambitious men decide to gain power, and become kings and dictators, waging war on each other. They get more creative at war over time. Others use their creativity for nobler purposes. It’s just like the Bible says.

But what about the radiometric dating? No dating method comes without assumptions. When you take microscopic bits of calcite out of a cave, with possibilities for contamination and erosion of your samples, and use decay rates that we have only measured for a little over a century, can you really speak with confidence about happenings that are orders of magnitude longer? Has anyone experienced 40,000 years, let alone millions? Remember, these ages are being told by the same fallible people who want you to believe their story about the hand prints being made hundreds of generations apart.

Scientists are good at measuring repeatable things in the lab, but they don’t know everything about the distant past. They weren’t there, and not one of them has ever experienced 100 years, let alone 40,000. Here’s a case where the man on the street who has common sense about human nature could be a better judge of which story is more plausible, if the two stories were told side by side without jargon.


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  • Buho says:

    The article says one of the paintings used ochre. Ochre is just red clay. So, they dated the clay, which, practically by definition, was around way before the artist used it. So how do they arrive at a painting date by dating the clay? That’s like dating the rock that Michelangelo used to carve his “David” sculpture and saying he carved it millions of years ago.

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