Scientists stumble on ancient Timor rock art

February 11, 2011
Scientists hunting for fossils of giant rats in East Timor stumbled on unique rock carvings up to 12,000 years old, Australia's research agency said.

Scientists hunting for fossils of giant rats in East Timor stumbled on unique rock carvings up to 12,000 years old, Australia's research agency said.

The experts were digging in Timor's Lene Hara cave, a of fossils and , when they chanced upon a group of stylised human faces etched in the rock.

"Looking up from the cave floor at a colleague sitting on a ledge, my head torch shone on what seemed to be a weathered carving," said Ken Aplin of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation (CSIRO).

"I shone the torch around and saw a whole panel of engraved prehistoric human faces on the wall of the cave."

The face carvings, which include one with a circular headdress resembling the sun, are the first of their kind to be found in Timor and the only ones from the Pleistocene period (ending 12,000 years ago) in the region.

"The local landowners with whom we were working were stunned by the findings. They said the faces had chosen that day to reveal themselves because they were pleased by the field work we were doing," Aplin said.

Other art in the cave has been dated at around 30,000 years old, while CSIRO last year said it had discovered evidence of an of ancient, giant rats the size of small dogs.

Explore further: DNA analysis reveals rapid population shift among Pleistocene cave bears

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5 / 5 (1) Feb 11, 2011
It is a good thing the paintings were discovered during the era of democracy in Indonesia (and independence for the eastern part of Timor).
Had the rock art been discovered during the Suharto time, it is possible it would have been destroyed, to obscure any cultural tradition pre-dating the government dominance of the area (such things have happened in Turkish Kurdistan, and the Saudis and Afghanis have also blown up pre-islamic archaeological remains).
not rated yet Feb 11, 2011
The scary part is that I dated Suratman's daughter. You know. The guy being tried for crimes against humanity?
not rated yet Feb 12, 2011
the Saudis and Afghanis have also blown up pre-islamic archaeological remains

That's the saddest thing I've heard all day.

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