Climate change is erasing humanity’s oldest art

color photo of archaeologists examining rock art in a dark cave
Enlarge / Detailed rock-art recording by ARKENAS archaeologist in Maros-Pangkep.

Adhi Agus Oktaviana

The limestone caves and rock shelters of Indonesia’s southern Sulawesi island hold the oldest traces of human art and storytelling, dating back more than 40,000 years. Paintings adorn the walls of at least 300 sites in the karst hills of Maros-Pangkep, with more almost certainly waiting to be rediscovered. But archaeologists say humanity’s oldest art is crumbling before their very eyes.

“We have recorded rapid loss of hand-sized spall flakes from these ancient art panels over a single season (less than five months),” said archaeologist Rustan Lebe of Makassar’s culture heritage department.

Erasing history

The culprit is salt. As water flows through a limestone cave system, it carries minerals from the local bedrock, and the minerals eventually end up in the limestone. At the limestone’s surface, those minerals oxidize into a case-hardened rocky crust. Nearly all

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Fearing Climate Change, the Louvre’s New Conservation Center Will Hold One-Third of the Museum’s Entire Art Collection

In 1910, there was the Great Flood of Paris: Excess rainwater raised water levels eightfold. Photos from that time show locals riding down streets in makeshift boats. With global warming, there is a 40% increase in the chance of a similar flood happening nowadays. So if that does happen, in a city chock-full with culture, what will happen to the art?

The Musée du Louvre in Paris is home to one of the most valuable art collections in the world, including famed artworks like the Mona Lisa and The Winged Victory of Samothrace. With it comes a great risk of water damage. The museum has created a new venue to store its valuable art—the Louvre Conservation Center in Liévin, in the north of France.

This $120 million project, which opened in October, was designed by British architectural firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. Over the past few months, 141

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Native American art hurt by construction, climate change

August Wood carefully inserts an awl to create an opening between rows of the basket he’s been working on. He pulls a piece of willow branch shaved down to about 1/16-inch thickness from the plastic bowl half-full of water he uses to soften the woody stem. 

Placing one end of the willow into the hole, Wood pulls the softened splint through, leaving a small tail behind, which he’ll work into the basket’s body later.

He works another opening close to where he started the splint, and loops the willow around and through, making a smooth stitch along the rod of cattail that anchors the stitches. After a few stitches with the creamy white willow, Wood switches to a splint of black devil’s claw, following a pattern that’s in his head. 

Wood’s work, including tightly woven baskets that he thinks could hold water, medallions for necklaces, earrings and other pieces are

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