The report on this issue has been published by the researchers in Scientific Reports, which is published by Nature Research.
Climate change and heritage: Climate change and degradation of environment are impacting human heritage. Researchers have found that due to the environmental degradation, one of the most precious and oldest pieces of human heritage – the rock paintings in caves of southern Sulawesi in Indonesia that date back to the Pleistocene-era between 45,000 to 20,000 years ago – is rapidly weathering, according to a report in IE. The report on this issue has been published by the researchers in Scientific Reports, which is published by Nature Research.
Why are these cave paintings important?
The report stated that as many as 11 rock shelters and caves located in Sulawesi’s Maros-Pangkep region were examined by a team consisting of conservative specialists, archaeological scientists and heritage managers from both Australia and Indonesia. Among the artworks that were found in the region is a hand stencil from almost 40,000 years ago which researchers believe to be the oldest hand stencil in the world. The art was created by pressing a hand against a wall of the cave and then spraying wet red mulberry pigments over the hand.
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Not just that but a cave nearby also contains the oldest pictorial depiction of an animal in the world – a warty painting of a pig dating back to about 45,500 years ago. The report further stated that the Sulawesi cave art predates the one from Europe by a big time gap.
What did the researchers find?
In these caves, rock flakes have started detaching from the surface of the cave, and upon studying them, researchers found the presence of calcium sulphate as well as sodium chloride in three samples. These compounds can form crystals on the surface of the rock and cause them to break.
Repeated changes in humidity as well as temperature due to alternating wet and dry weather cause the growth of salt crystals on rocks, and this process is known as haloclasty. It is because of this process that artwork made of pigments is decaying, scientists said. The fact that Indonesia has also been facing numerous natural disasters in recent times has only made the deterioration process faster.
The recommendations from researchers
At present, these caves are known to have about 300 artworks, with more in the process of being discovered as part of explorations, the report said. Now, researchers have recommended that the sites be regularly monitored in the physical and chemical aspects, much like how the efforts are being made to preserve the prehistoric cave arts in France and Spain.