Neanderthals Cave Art?

Photo: Pedro Saura

They may be cavemen, but they're artistic cavemen! Scientists using new dating technique found that many famous cave paintings are actually thousands of years older than previously thought, and may have been drawn by Neanderthals:

The biggest surprise was the age of several large red disks, also made by blowing pigment, at El Castillo: at least 40,800 years. Dozens of such disks and 40 hand stencils are in the same panel, along with rectangles and ovals, suggesting that 40,800 is the minimum age of the entire composition.

That makes the painting, which would not look out of place in a Joan Miro retrospective, "Europe's oldest known art by at least 4,000 years," said Pike said at a news conference Wednesday.

That extreme age raises the highly charged question of who the artists were. [...]

The more controversial possibility is that the art is the work of Neanderthals (or "Neandertals," in scientists' preferred spelling). "Symbolic culture clearly existed among Neanderthals," said archaeologist Joao Zilhão of the University of Barcelona, the study's senior author. Given that, "it wouldn't be surprising if they were Europe's first cave artists."

Sharon Begley of Reuters has the story: Link 

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"There is a strong chance that these results imply Neanderthal authorship," Prof Zilhao explained. "But I will not say we have proven it because we haven't, and it cannot be proven at this time."
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