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Possible Pleistocene Rock Art Discovered in East Timor

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Timor Hand StencilsSOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND—According to a Cosmos Magazine report, Christopher Standish of the University of Southampton and his colleagues have found traces of poorly preserved hand stencils and pigment splatters in the Lene Hara Cave, which is located on the eastern side of the island of Timor. Standish said the paintings, which probably date to the Pleistocene, were made by blowing red pigment over a hand placed on a mineral crust. The mineral crust has since flaked off the cave walls, leaving behind faint patterns only visible through enhanced photography. It had been previously suggested that all known rock art in East Timor dated to the Holocene, which began about 11,650 years ago, but Standish and his team members note the stylistic differences between the stencils and other images on the cave walls. The later paintings feature geometric shapes and images of animals, and in one case, had been painted over an older hand stencil, he explained. The researchers suggest that migrants traveling by water some 65,000 years ago may have stopped at the site before arriving in Sahul, the ancient landmass made up of what are now Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. “The rock art we uncovered could be critical for understanding the colonization and spread of ideas between Asia and Sahul,” Standish said. To read about the possible burial of a woman fisher just north of Timor, go to "Old Woman and the Sea."

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