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Researchers have discovered the oldest-known Indigenous rock painting

Researchers have identified the oldest-known Aboriginal rock painting and, you guessed it, it’s a kangaroo.

In a new study reported in the journal Nature Human Behaviour,  researchers have found a drawing of a kangaroo at an art site in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The site is one of eight in total which offer a gallery of murals depicting various Australian animals painted by ancestors of the Balanggarra people.

Aboriginal rock-painting of a kangaroo

As well as the roo pictured above, the murals depict a “snake, a lizard-like figure, and three macropods (the iconic family of marsupials that includes kangaroos, wallabies, and quokkas),” said the study.

Trying to date the paintings is a task too difficult even for Skippy to tackle. Instead, scientists at the University of Melbourne, along with the Aboriginal Traditional Owners of the sites have “dated the remains of ancient mud wasp nests which have been painted over” explained IFL Science. In doing so, the scientists found that the kangaroo drawing was dated “between 17,500 to 17,100 years ago.”

Commenting on the discovery, Ian Waina, traditional owner and Kwini man said, “It’s something that all tribes want to know — how old are our paintings? And tourists always ask too, but many Aboriginal people have had no idea.”

“What we’ve done now with the scientists is open up the gate to find out.” Mr Waina accompanied archaeologists on their visits to the rock sites and said they received permission from traditional elders to conduct the research. “I went to the senior person for the area, Augustine Ynghango, and he gave me the power to say yes or no,” he added.

One of the project’s chief investigators, Dr Sven Ouzman from the University Western Australia’s School of Social Sciences said, “This iconic kangaroo image is visually similar to rock paintings from islands in South East Asia dated to more than 40,000 years ago, suggesting a cultural link – and hinting at still older rock art in Australia.” 

As more paintings may still be out there, we can assume the archaeologists will leave no stone unturned.