Just How Old Is This Kite Cave Painting?

Ben Ruhe
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For several years now there has been talk in international kite circles of a primitive cave painting in Indonesia showing kite flying. The cave is on Muna Island, off the island of Sulawesi (formerly the Moluccas).

If it could be dated and was found to be ancient, the image might prove how old kites were in that part of the Melanesian world. It has long been believed by historians Clive Hart of England and Tal Streeter of the U.S. that the Chinese claim to the invention of the kite is invalid, that the kite is likely to be much, much older than previously thought and the Chinese argue.

The case for using a cave painting to date ephemeral primitive objects made of easily destroyed materials is made by the boomerang. Remains of returning boomerangs found preserved in a peat bog southwest of Adelaide in Australia date to 10,000 years before present; a missile stick (non-return boomerang) has been found in Europe and dated to 23,000 before present. Yet multiple cave paintings off the coast of Irian Jaya, survivors of Ice Age flooding and not all that far from Sulawesi, show return boomerangs and missile sticks that have now been dated to 30,000 years before present.

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