"We trace the rock art paintings` record and register them as national cultural reserves, so that they can be maintained, for they are the proof of the cultural value of prehistoric civilizations," North Maluku BPCB Head Muhammad Husni remarked in Wonreli recently.
Based in Ternate, with a working area covering the provinces of Maluku, North Maluku, Papua, and West Papua, the BPCB began the search for prehistoric cultural paintings on Kisar Island since November 17, 2018.
Most of the rock art traced is what had been studied earlier by archaeologists and researchers from the Gadjah Mada University (UGM) Yogyakarta, in cooperation with the Australian National University and the Maluku Archaeological Center a few years ago.
In the process, North Maluku BPCB also brought Dr. Mahirta, an archaeologist from UGM involved in research related to rock art on Kisar Island, and archaeologist Muhammad Nur from the University of Hasanudin (Unhas) Makassar, who is also among the team of experts in cultural heritage in Maros District, South Sulawesi.
The first search was conducted in the rock cave complex of Aulapa Temple, followed by the Intutun rocky hills and the cave complex of Here Sorot in Oirata Village.
"We explore the rock art with these experts, as they have more scientific knowledge, especially Dr. Mahirta, one of the main researchers in the UGM and ANU collaboration project for rock painting research in Kisar in 2014, 2015, and 2017," Husni noted.
He said the age of the rock art cave paintings in Kisar has yet to be established, but after taking into account the several motifs that bear similarities with the variety of rock art motifs in other regions, the paintings are likely to date back to the Pleistocene age, around 20 thousand to 40 thousand years ago.
Despite the age not yet being ascertained, Husni said the paintings must still be protected by designating them as cultural heritage sites, so they are maintained and not damaged.
"Later, the sites can also be developed and utilized by the local government as tourist attractions," he added.
Reporting by Otniel Tamindael
Editing by Yoseph Hariyadi