Prehistoric cave art discovered in Transylvania

A group of speleologists exploring a cave in the Apuseni Nature Park in Transylvania, Romania, have discovered what could be Central Europe’s oldest cave art. Paintings of now-extinct species rhinoceros and cat were found next to images of bison, a horse, a bear’s head, and a female torso.

While dating cave art is difficult, based on the style archaeologists believe the figures are anywhere from 23,000 to 35,000 years old. No cave art this old has ever been found in Central Europe.

Coliboaia cave, where the art was discovered, is one of hundreds of caves in the Bihorului Mountains. Many have yet to be explored and there are likely to be more archaeological surprises in the future.

The question remains of what to do with the cave. There will be a temptation to open it to the public, but with the controversial reopening of Altamira in Spain, and the problems over preserving the paintings of Lascaux in France, the debate over how best to preserve humanity’s oldest art is growing louder than ever.

Lascaux image courtesy Sevela.p via Wikimedia Commons.

Rock Art in Malawi is a World Heritage Site

One of the latest UNESCO World Heritage sites is in Malawi. Chongoni Rock Art, found clustered in 127 different locations in the granite hills of Malawi’s central plateau, are images painted onto rock. They’ve been here for a long time-a very long time. The folks who painted them may date back to the late Stone Age when folks were hunter-gatherers. The Chewa ethnic group in Malawi whose ancestry goes back to the Iron Age is also responsible for some of the art. The Chewa, an agriculturally-based ethnic group that lives in Malawi today, were still painting on the rocks until the early 20th century. They continue to tie their ceremonies and rituals to the paintings. Because the practice of creating rock art is not common among agriculturally-based people, the existence of this work is interesting in itself. As another interesting note, most of the art is connected to symbolism that depicts women. Yeah! I like that.

One of the reasons Chongoni Rock Art is deemed a World Heritage site is that this is the largest concentration of rock art in Central Africa.