Witnessing age-old traditions and culture is always a nerve chilling experience. What would you say about mystic cliff paintings that were probably done thousands of years ago? It’s like the ancestors penned down their thoughts and stories for the future generations to cherish. The cliff paintings in Namatota Islands are not only one of the most protected sites but they are also an element of pride and reverence for the locals.
When Were The Cliff Paintings First Discovered
A Dutchman named Johannes Keyts first discovered the mystic red drawings on the cliffs along the coast near Namatota Island in 1678. As the chief merchant of the East India Company, Keyts was the first visitor to this region. The discovery of cliff paintings was kept a secret for various trading and political reasons, and they were rediscovered two centuries later in 1878.
Along with the interesting cliff paintings in Namatota, several other red, white, and black paintings were also discovered on the small islands of MacCleury Golf; currently known as Teluk Berau. Although several centuries old and belonging to the prehistoric time, the cliff paintings are still clearly visible to the naked eye.
Studies indicate that these drawings were created using natural materials such as vegetable dyes and different types of pigments made of soil or lime, containing iron. The paint was applied to the rocks using fingers and different tools that served as brushes. In some paintings, the colors are sprayed on the surface by blowing through the mouth or hollow reeds.
What’s The Symbolism Of The Paintings
Several theories exist regarding the interpretation of these painted images but the real purpose remains a mystery. Some geologists believe that depicting animals through paintings express their fear of those animals. Others believe that this might be a part of their hunting rituals or offerings to appease the ancestral spirits and evil ghosts. Even today, the Papuans perform many rituals to please their ancestors.
The prehistoric drawings on the rock surfaces depict a wide range of animals such as fish, turtles, lizards, crocodiles, sea horses, snakes, and birds. Apart from animal images, several other types of signs and symbols were also imbibed on the rock surfaces.
These signs are often classified into two categories; male and female. While the entrance of the caves usually has signs that depict males, the signs discovered towards the center of the cave depicts female. Several prehistoric sculptures are also found on the cliffs and they mostly belong to the same period.
Why Are The Cliff Paintings So Important
These rock drawings offer a window through which you can learn about the past, the way the prehistoric people led their lives and so on. Since the beginning of civilization, man has always had the urge to express his thoughts and the cliffs became the medium. These paintings are probably their expression of views regarding death, fertility, hunting, and warding off the evil spirits.
Off late, the cliff paintings have come under threat for a number of reasons such as water damage, erosion, graffiti, and risk of cliff collapse. But, the good news is that there are probably numerous other unexplored sites that have not been discovered as of yet. As these drawings continue to be one of the most protected heritage, a trip to these rocky cliffs will take you back in time and fill you with sheer ecstasy.
Who Are The Locals Of Namatota Island
About 149 families and a vibrant ocean biota call Namatota Island their home. As a part of Kaimana Kota district, the island was recently declared a conservation area. The locals are proud of their ancient heritage and they promote slogans like ‘my ocean, my life’, which is enough to explain how much they revere their island.
How To Get To Namatota Island
To get to Namatota Island, you need to look for the best route that can take you to the Triton Bay. You can fly via Ambon and Jakarta to the town of Kaimana, West Papua. Once you arrive at Triton Bay, you can charter a yacht that can take you to Namatota Island where you can witness the cliff paintings for real.
Photo credit: https://www.merapitours.com/