TWHS: Prehistoric Cave Sites in Maros-Pangkep, Indonesia

So the way our Borneo visit finished off, to our mild surprise, is that when we jumped over the Malaysian border to Tarakan, instead of visiting some of the three Tentative Sites in Kalimatan … we did a dash down to Sulawesi and back!

Reason for that was, looking at the travel options it struck us that our Malaysian flights fitted just perfectly with a quick visit to Massakar, which is less than an hour from a particularly interesting site,

Prehistoric Cave Sites in Maros-Pangkep

The Karst Maros-Pangkep area illustrates a sample that represents important values of continued knowledge development in the history of earth, fresh water and coastal ecosystems as well as biota and fauna community as indicated by the following:sdf

The Karts Maros-Pangkep Area not only presents a unique landscape but also has archaeological sources of prehistoric caves and its heritage that date back to  housands of years ago… In this region there are hundreds of caves with stalagtits and stalagmit, of which 89 of them are prehistoric caves that contain prehistoric Rock Art Painting, prehistoric stone tools, kitchen waste consisting of shells from an ancient Mollusca

That really doesn’t do the place justice. Here, let’s find a better headline:

The World’s oldest Palaeolithic Rock Art at Leang-Leang Prehistoric Park, Maros, Sulawesi, Indonesia


At Leang Timpuseng in Maros, a speleothem covering part of a hand stencil was dated to a minimum age of 39 900 BP. A speleothem covering part of a painting probably depicting a babirusa in the same cave yielded a minimum age of 35 300 BP. Similar ages were obtained in a number of other nearby caves, placing the paintings firmly in the early Upper Palaeolitic…

Yes, there’s paintings in the caves around here that are forty fluffing thousand years old. And since they’re pretty much under the radar so far, at Leang-Leang Prehistoric Park you can climb right up to them, no barriers, no nothing.

Well, you know that isn’t going to last long once word gets out and this place becomes more widely known … like about two minutes after they get around to making it an inscribed site one of these years.

So we figured that as long as an opportunity to check it out in its natural state had presented itself like this, we’d go for that Tarakan <-> Massakar run and save the Kalimantan sites for our next Borneo trip.

And should you do the same, this is what you’ll see!

First off, you climb up some 30 feet from the valley floor to the cave system; this is 40KBC’s equivalent of a penthouse suite apparently

Leang-Leang Climb up

and right there at the entrance is where the art is:

Leang-Leang Handprints

Apparently the purpose of these handprints is to ward away danger. You’d think it would be only a very polite kind of danger that could be stopped by a handprint…

Leang-Leang More Handprints

… but well here we are, it’s forty fluffing thousand years later and they’re still there, so apparently the handprints work!

They’re not all just handprints, there’s some vague blobs that are said to represent animals as well, probably in hopes of good luck on the hunt. For instance, here’s one of the hindquarters of an alleged pig:

Leang-Leang Pig

We can sorta see it, I guess, but wow that’s one fat pig.

Of course, you wouldn’t bother with animist magic to catch a skinny pig, now would you?

The cave system inside is actually very nice indeed, roomy and comfortably temperatured and plenty of reflected light, really must have been quite the prestigious address back in the day,

Leang-Leang Cave

especially with the dramatic balcony view:

Leang-Leang Front Porch

So yep, if you’re interested in Mankind’s artistic history, it just literally does not get any more historical than this site … and you can just stroll right up to it.

One last note: In the park, and around the area in general, there’s a lot of karst rock scattered around in somewhat unusual fashion:

Leang-Leang Landscape

People have suggested that this is not just an oddity of local erosion, but in fact the rocks were placed astronomically — a kind of tens of thousands of years older Stonehenge. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to track down any of those suggestions, just noted references to them.

In any case, this is our vote for Most Important World Heritage Site Not Actually Inscribed Yet — and if you’re around Indonesia any time soon, we definitely recommend popping over to Sulawesi to get an up close and personal look before the rest of the world descends on it!

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  1. […] a while since we got around to another visit post, we last left off at the Prehistoric Cave Sites in Maros-Pangkep in Sulawesi; so let’s continue our Indonesian explorations by hopping over to Sumatra and […]

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