Before we went there, Kalimantan, a region as big as France, hadn’t been visited by a single archaeologist.
Deep in the jungles of Indonesian Borneo are caves that are home to thousands of astonishing rock paintings, some more than 14,000 years old, and most showing stencilled hands. When explorer, speleologist and documentary film-maker Luc-Henri
Fage first discovered charcoal pictures in 1988, he understood their importance and set out to draw the world’s attention to these vestiges of prehistoric man, and the need to preserve them.<br><br>Accompanied by archaeologists
Jean-Michel Chazine (France) and Pindi Setiawan (Indonesia), he has undertaken numerous, frequently hazardous expeditions to the region, discovering new caves and paintings in the karst outcrops. The "negative" hands are the result
of a very fine powdered pigment being blown over the hand by mouth or through a hollow tube dominate the artwork adorning Kalimantan’s caves. Many of them are over-painted with symbolic drawings which are unique in the world; Fage
and his colleagues believe they could be a communication code.<br><br>This art that has survived for so long faces many threats, and in 2011 Fage co-wrote a book, <i>Borneo, Memory of the Caves</i>, to support
his objective of creating a natural park in the Marang Mountains, where the most remarkable drawings are located. He then made two films of his discoveries. He hopes to convince Indonesia’s authorities to limit the impact of coalmines
and cement works, which take limestone from the karst, and to introduce ecotourism and sustainable development as viable alternatives.