West Papua Expedition

3,000-5,000 Year-Old Rock Art in Raja Ampat: West Papua Expedition

The last group of islands in Raja Ampat that we visited on the expedition was a day spent snorkeling, kayaking and Zodiac cruising around the islands of Misool, one of “The Four Kings” that are known as Raja Ampat. Misool is another masterpiece of karst, whose rocks have been eroded by the ocean and rain into dazzling spires of limestone, unlike any of the previous scenery in Raja Ampat. The formations are so steep and awe inspiring that the area has been named “Thousands of Temples.”

On our Zodiac cruise of the islands around Misool, one spectacular feature that our expedition team had given a lecture on was the 3,000 to 5,000-year old “rock art” on the cliffs (probably at one point the walls were part of caves that have since collapsed). We weren’t sure if we would have time on the cruise to get to the distant island to see the rock art. Fortunately, we extended the cruise and did get to the cliffs to see the ochre rock paintings (“petroglyphs”) that were amazingly well preserved.

The ocean surface was just below the horizontal band of rocks – the painted walls of the cliff, at one point long ago, were probably inside a cave that has since eroded.

Some observers have compared the Misool rock art to France’s much older (~17,000 years old) Lascaux Paleolithic cave paintings. While there is no tradition of rock painting among the inhabitants of Raja Ampat, some speculate that the paintings were done by early visitors (ancient tribes) to the area, perhaps the Aborigines from Australia who went as far as Papua.

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