While on a search for fossils of extinct giant rats, inside the Lene Hara cave, located on the northeast tip of East Timor, a group of archaeologists and palaeontologists discovered engraved prehistoric human faces on the wall of the limestone cave.
According to their description, the petroglyphs are frontal stylised faces, each with eyes, a nose and a mouth.
Uranium isotope dating revealed that one of the faces, framed by a circular headdress with rays, is around 10,000 to 12,000 years old, placing it in the late Pleistocene. The other face carvings could not be dated but are likely to be equally ancient.
These petroglyphs found in the Lene Hara cave are the only known carvings of faces on the island of Timor that have been dated to the Pleistocene.
Archaeologists and rock art specialists have been visiting the cave since the early 1960s to study its rock paintings, which include hand stencils, animals, human figures, boats and linear decorative motifs. The age of the pigment art in Lene Hara is currently unknown but a fragment of limestone with traces of embedded red ochre was dated previously by Professor Sue O’Connor of The Australian National University to over 30,000 years ago.
Photo by John Brush