An ancient artist ventured into an Indonesian cave 45,000 years ago and used primitive paint to sketch pigs on the ceiling. In a study at Science Advances, archaeologists have now declared the painting to be the oldest depiction of animals known in history, reports Smithsonian Magazine. The scene depicts at least three native pigs, but the clearest, most complete one is roughly 6 feet long and more than 3 feet high, reports CNN. Archaeologists found it in a cave on the island of Sulawesi, and uranium-based dating estimates it's 1,000 years older than the previous record-holder, also found in a Sulawesi cave. The oldest known drawing created by early humans goes back 73,000 years in Africa, but the scene with warty pigs is thought to be the oldest example of figurative art, or art that reflects the real world, per National Geographic.
"The arrangement of the figures is suggestive, in our view, of a narrative composition or scene in the modern Western sense," the authors from Australia's Griffith University write in the study. What's more, they suspect that this type of art—which made use of red ocher pigment from pulverized rocks—was relatively common in the region, given the new discoveries being made in limestone caves and other shelters. In other words, don't be surprised if this record falls in the near future. The discovery adds more weight to the notion that "the first rock art traditions probably did not arise in Ice Age Europe as long supposed," researcher Adam Brumm tells Live Science. In the drawing, the pigs appear to be engaged in some kind of interaction, possibly a fight. Two human hands also are seen near the largest pig. Brumm discusses the discovery in this video. (Read more discoveries stories.)