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The rock art of Southeast Asia has been less thoroughly studied than that of Europe or Australia, and it has generally been considered to be more recent in origin. New dating evidence from Mainland and Island Southeast Asia, however, demonstrates that the earliest motifs (hand stencils and naturalistic animals) are of late Pleistocene age and as early as those of Europe. The similar form of the earliest painted motifs in Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia suggests that they are the product of a shared underlying behaviour, but the difference in context (rockshelters) indicates that experiences in deep caves cannot have been their inspiration.
The temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia is one of the most famous monuments in the world and is noted for its spectacular bas-relief friezes depicting ceremonial and religious scenes. Recent work reported here has identified an entirely new series of images consisting of paintings of boats, animals, deities and buildings. Difficult to see with the naked eye, these can be enhanced by digital photography and decorrelation stretch analysis, a technique recently used with great success in rock art studies. The paintings found at Angkor Wat seem to belong to a specific phase of the temple's history in the sixteenth century AD when it was converted from a Vishnavaite Hindu use to Theravada Buddhist.
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