The oldest piece of rock art in the world, dating all the way back to the Ice Age, was identified by scientists.
The unknown rock artist put their hand on the wall of an Indonesian cave over 39,000-years-ago, spraying a red mineral powder over it, making a perfect hand stencil on the wall, reports The Associated Press.
In the cave near the hand stencils, other rock art stencils in the shapes of animals decorate the walls. Scientists believe that the discovery of the world's oldest pieces of rock art will help researchers understand how humans developed elaborate art.
The new rock art "changes our view of when and where humans became completely modern," Maxime Aubert, an archaeologist and geochemist at Australia's Griffith University, and a co-author of a study in this week's Nature reporting the new dates, tells AP, adding, that before this discovery the old view "led people to believe that our species became aware of ourselves, became modern, in Europe. Now we can show that's not true."
Aubert couldn't believe his eyes when he first came to the realization of the age of the rock art.
"I looked at the numbers and said, 'Whoa, that's pretty old!'" he recalls to AP.
Archaeological scientist Alistair Pike, of Britain's University of Southampton, who was not involved with the new study, tells AP this could be huge for researchers looking at the evolution of people as well.
He said the art "suggests to me that moving out of Africa required some quite complex development in human social behavior." Rituals associated with cave art may have helped glue people together, Pike speculates, also suggesting that if there was art on the rocks inside the Indonesian cave there may be art in Spain and Sulawesi too.