Skip to comments.Fossil Findings Blur Picture Of Art's Birth (Neanderthals?)
Posted on 07/08/2004 11:27:07 AM PDT by blam
Published online: 07 July 2004
Fossil findings blur picture of art's birth
Who created the earliest artwork?
Artworks from Germany were found alongside human remains.
For years archaeologists have clung to the idea that only truly modern humans were artists, and that our Neanderthal cousins spent their entire evolutionary lifetime as boorish philistines. But fresh analysis of a prized set of human bones has dealt a body blow to this cherished theory.
The first sparks of artistic creativity are seen in carved figurines found at various sites throughout Europe. The oldest examples are between 30,000 and 40,000 years old, which means they were created about the time that modern humans are thought to have blazed a trail across the continent, displacing Neanderthals as they went.
Many experts argue that this cannot be simple coincidence. Art arrived in Europe with modern humans, they say. As proof, they point to the Vogelherd caves near Ulm, Germany, where a dozen figurines of this vintage, as well as stone tools, were unearthed alongside Homo sapiens remains in 1931.
However, no one had proved that the Vogelherd bones and artwork were the same age, says Nicholas Conard of the University of Tübingen, Germany, who led the new study. "Speculation is cheap," he says. "It sounds plausible, but you need evidence."
Conard's team have now dated the artefacts, by looking at the rates of decay of radioactive carbon atoms in samples taken from the specimens. As he and his colleagues report in this week's Nature1, the bones are only about 5,000 years old, which is much younger than the stone tools and artworks that litter their resting place.
The Vogelherd humans must have been deliberately buried, much as we inter our dead today, Conard's team concludes. And this means that researchers have lost a valuable lead in their hunt for the artists who created the figurines.
"It is disappointing," says Clive Gamble, an archaeologist at the University of Southampton, UK. The discovery leaves experts without a concrete link between art's origins and modern man.
Everyone assumes that modern man made the first art. But no one knows the true story.
Nicholas Conard University of Tübingen
Does this mean, then, that Neanderthals could have been artists too? After all, they lived in Europe alongside modern humans at the time of art's first flowering. Perhaps, says Gamble, although it seems unlikely given that they are thought to have arrived in Europe around 200,000 years ago, long before the earliest art.
Still, Gamble admits that Vogelherd has taught archaeologists not to assume the figurines were made by modern man just because they are the right age. "It's like saying that every baguette must have been made by a Frenchman," he says.
Until someone finds bones and art of the same age buried together, the true picture will stay hidden, agrees Conard. "Everyone assumes that modern man made the art, and the Vogelherd humans were supposed to prove that," he says. "But now no one knows the real story."
I worked with an engineer who looked exactly like the Neanderthals you see in the recreations of what they looked like. His brow, His teeth, hair,even the way he walked. Put a spear in his hand & you would have thought you were transported back in time.
His favorite hobby was carving beautiful chess sets out of stone.
They intermarried I believe, hogswash they died out
The incidence of red hair is the same for Libyians as it is for the Irish.
Hi Eggs, Is that a woven fabric on the head of the Venus Idol in post #5?
Funny, I thought they were older.
I think I read something about the 'experts' arguing over that.
Lol, she's built to with-stand earthquakes.
Whoa! Don't show that to Bill Clinton, he'll have a wardrobe malfunction...
.....brick ****house comes to mind. No wonder she ended up in the bathroom!
I thought the latest thinking was the Neanderthals DID make/own/wear decorative items towards the end of their time on earth, but what was not clear was whether they were truly being "creative" or were merely aping their new Cro-Magnon neighbors without understanding what they were doing.
The fertility goddess harkens back to a time when women ruled their communities. And isn't that big gold lady a beaut?
Yup. That's about the last I've heard on this too.
Contempory studies have shown that brain size correlates with IQ. Cro-Magnon Man had a larger brain than present day humans...we're breeding down.(?)
Wow! Again you amaze me blam! Nice find; fascinating.
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The horse pictured above is beautiful and, to me, shows a maked similatity to the art style of the caves -- 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. A golden age?
Interesting article;thanks for the link. :-)