The red outline of a bull-like beast on a cave wall in the Indonesian part of Borneo is the oldest example of an animal design , experts say.
Researchers say the 5-foot sketch is at least 40,000 years old. This would make it slightly older than similar animal paintings found in the famous caves of France and Spain. Until a few years ago, experts thought that Europe was the place where the ancestors of humanity began to draw animals and other figures.
"The oldest image of rock art we have dated is a large painting of an unidentified animal, probably a species of wild cattle still found in the jungles of Borneo ̵
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Aubert led the research project, which also included the National Research Center for Archeology of Indonesia (ARKENAS) and the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB). The study is published in the journal Nature .
Scientists observe that while Borneo is the third largest island on Earth, for most of the ice age, it formed the easternmost tip of the vast continental region of # 39; Eurasia. Europe was at the western end of the vast continental mass of 8,078 miles
"Now it seems that two ancient provinces of rock art have arisen at a similar time in remote corners of the Paleolithic Eurasia: a in Europe and one in Indonesia at the opposite end of this glacial world, "said the associate professor of the Griffith University, Adam Brumm, who participated in the study, in a statement
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The remote limestone caves on Borneo are known to contain prehistoric drawings from the 90s. To reach them, Aubert and his team used machetes to stumble into the dense jungle in a leafy corner of the island.
Tying the miners' helmets to illuminate the darkness, they walked and crawled through miles of caverns decorated with hundreds of ancient drawings, looking for works of art that could be dated. They needed to find specific mineral deposits on the drawings to determine their age with a technology that measures the decay of the element's uranium.
In 2014, Aubert and his fellow researchers reported on the art of caves from the nearby Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Measuring the decay of uranium, they dated the hand stencils, created by blowing red dyes through a tube to capture the contour of a hand pressed against rock, almost 40,000 years ago
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With the rock art of Borneo, scientists are able to build a rough timeline on how art has developed in the area. In addition to the bull, they have dated red and purple hand stencils and cave paintings of human scenes.
After large drawings and stencils of animals, "It seems that attention has shifted to the human world," Aubert said.  The rock art discoveries continue to be a source of attraction for archaeologists. Last year, researchers discovered a wide range of mysterious pre-Columbian rock art in the caverns of a remote uninhabited Caribbean island.
Archaeologists made the discovery by exploring about 70 cave systems on the Mona island of Puerto Rico. The thousands of drawings, created centuries ago, include the largest concentration of pre-Columbian indigenous rock art in the Caribbean, according to experts.
The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers