Ancient face carvings found in cave

Feb. 11, 2011 at 8:23 PM

BRISBANE, Australia, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Australian scientists looking for fossils in East Timor say they found something else -- ancient stone faces carved into the walls of a limestone cave.

A team of archaeologists and palaeontologists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization were working in Lene Hara Cave on the northeastern tip of East Timor, searching for fossils of a species of extinct giant rats, the organization said in a release Friday.

"Looking up from the cave floor at a colleague sitting on a ledge, my head torch shone on what seemed to be a weathered carving," the organization's Ken Aplin said.

"I shone the torch around and saw a whole panel of engraved prehistoric human faces on the wall of the cave."

The Lene Hara carvings, or petroglyphs, are frontal, stylized faces each with eyes, a nose and a mouth, with one showing a circular headdress with rays that frame the face.

Uranium isotope dating of the "sun ray" face by the University of Queensland revealed the carving to be about 10,000 to 12,000 years old, placing it in the late Pleistocene epoch.

Although stylized engravings of faces have been found throughout Melanesia, Australia and the Pacific, the Lene Hara petroglyphs are the only examples that have been dated to the Pleistocene, the researchers say.

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