The effects of climate change on the Pleistocene rock art of Sulawesi

Huntley J., Aubert M., Oktaviana A.A., Lebe R., Hakim B., Burhan B., Aksa L.M., Geria I.M., Ramli M., Siagian L., Brand H.E.A., Brumm A.

Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, PERAHU, Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia; Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, Environmental Futures Research Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, QLD, Australia; Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional (ARKENAS), Jakarta, Indonesia; Balai Pelestarian Cagar Budaya, Sulawesi Selatan, Makassar, Indonesia; Balai Arkeologi Sulawesi, Sulawesi Selatan, Makassar, Indonesia; Museum Kepresidenan Republik Indonesia, Balai Kirti, Bogor, Indonesia; Universitas Gadjah Mada (Fakultas Ilmu Budaya-Magister Arkeologi), Yogyakarta, Indonesia; Australian Synchrotron, Clayton, VIC, Australia


The equatorial tropics house some of the earliest rock art yet known, and it is weathering at an alarming rate. Here we present evidence for haloclasty (salt crystallisation) from Pleistocene-aged rock art panels at 11 sites in the Maros-Pangkep limestone karsts of southern Sulawesi. We show how quickly rock art panels have degraded in recent decades, contending that climate-catalysed salt efflorescence is responsible for increasing exfoliation of the limestone cave surfaces that house the ~ 45 to 20-thousand-year-old paintings. These artworks are located in the world’s most atmospherically dynamic region, the Australasian monsoon domain. The rising frequency and severity of El Niño-induced droughts from anthropogenic climate change (that is, higher ambient temperatures and more consecutive dry days), combined with seasonal moisture injected via monsoonal rains retained as standing water in the rice fields and aquaculture ponds of the region, increasingly provide ideal conditions for evaporation and haloclasty, accelerating rock art deterioration. © 2021, The Author(s).


Scientific Reports

Publisher: Nature Research

Volume 11, Issue 1, Art No 9833, Page – , Page Count

Journal Link:

doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-87923-3

Issn: 20452322

Type: All Open Access, Gold, Green


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