AncientPages.com - Totally 28 rock art sites dating from at least 2,500 years ago have been discovered by researchers from The Australian National University (ANU).
The discovery was made on a small Indonesian island of Kisar which measures just 81 square kilometers and is located north of Timor-Leste.
People gesturing to sun/drum. Image Credit: ANU
A tiny Indonesian island, which is unusually rich in ancient cave paintings, has never been explored before.
"These Indonesian islands were the heart of the spice trade going back for thousands of years,” lead archaeologist, Distinguished Professor Sue O'Connor from the School of Culture, History and Language, said.
"The paintings we found depict boats, dogs, horses and people often holding what look like shields.
"Other scenes show people playing drums perhaps performing ceremonies."
Map of Kisar Island, north of Timor-Leste. Credit: ANU
Professor O'Connor said the discovery pointed to a stronger shared history with the neighboring island of Timor than had previously been known.
"The Kisar paintings include images which are remarkably similar to those in the east end of Timor-Leste," she said.
"A distinctive feature of the art in both islands is the exceptionally small size of the human and animal figures, most being less than 10 centimetres.
Boat and figures on paintings in Kisar Island rock art Credit: ANU
"Despite their size, however, they are remarkably dynamic."
The relationship between the two islands likely date back to the Neolithic period 3,500 years ago, which saw an influx of Austronesian settlers who introduced domestic animals, such as the dog, and perhaps cereal crops.
"These paintings perhaps herald the introduction of a new symbolic system established about two thousand years ago, following on the exchange of prestige goods and the beginning of hierarchical societies" she said.
Kisar Island, north of Timor-Leste. Credit: ANU
However, the study suggests that not all paintings date back to Neolithic in age; some of the motifs depicted on these paintings more likely originate from a Metal Age, which in this region places them within the last 2500 years.
There are close parallels between some of the painted figures and images cast on metal drums that began to be produced in northern Vietnam and southwest China about 2,500 years ago and traded throughout the region, indicate a more recent date for some of the paintings.