Skip to comments.Famous Cave Paintings Might Not Be From Humans
Posted on 06/15/2012 8:47:02 AM PDT by dead
The famous paintings on the walls of caves in Europe mark the beginning of figurative art and a great leap forward for human culture.
But now a novel method of determining the age of some of those cave paintings questions their provenance. Not that they're fakes only that it might not have been modern humans who made them.
The first European cave paintings are thought to have been made over 30,000 years ago. Most depict animals and hunters. Some of the eeriest are stencils of human hands, apparently made by blowing a spray of pigment over a hand held up to a wall.
But now scientists are suggesting those aren't human hands, at least in some caves in Spain.
Alistair Pike, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol in England who used a novel technique to get new dates for some of those paintings, says they're older than people thought, and they may just predate the arrival of humans in Europe.
"What we are saying is that we must entertain the possibility that these paintings were made by Neanderthals," Pike says. Those were humans' closest relatives, but they are not our species.
Pike says some of these paintings in Spain are at least 40,800 years old. At that time, Neanderthals had been running around Europe for 200,000 or 300,000 years. Modern humans had just arrived from Africa.
Pike concedes that maybe modern humans arrived in Europe with palette and pigment in hand, ready to paint up the town.
But the paintings could be even older. Pike's technique dates the age of the calcium carbonate that naturally forms in layers on top of the paintings. It's kind of like nature's shellac. Obviously the paintings had to be made before the first layer formed.
Archaeologist Joao Zilhao from the University of Barcelona is part of the team that did the work. He says his gut tells him it's Neanderthal art.
"We can't be 100 percent certain that they did it," Zilhao says. "I think that there is a strong probability. My point is the evidence for symbolic behavior among the Neanderthals already exists."
Neanderthals did perform ritual burials. They made decorative beads and other ornaments. Pike also notes that DNA evidence now suggests that modern humans and Neanderthals interbred.
"Why should it be surprising that Neanderthals produced art?" Pike says.
It does surprise archaeologists like Pat Shipman, who has spent a lifetime studying symbolic behavior. She wonders why Neanderthals waited until about the time humans arrived to get the itch to paint.
"OK, Neanderthals had been there for 300,000 years, and they're not doing this," Shipman says. "If they are not doing it before, why would they suddenly start doing it at that point?"
Ancient Neanderthals challenge us to think about our role as the sole humans on Earth today. A decorative shell ornament attributed to Neanderthals. Study: Neanderthals Wore Jewelry And Makeup
The discovery suggests that early relatives of humans were capable of symbolic thinking.
Shipman notes long before humans made the trek from Africa to Europe, they had been making all sorts of symbolic artifacts ocher hash marks on stone or symmetrical marks on ostrich eggs.
"I find it easiest to assume that people who are already doing that moved into more figurative representations than thinking that an entirely other species of people suddenly came up with making figurative art," Shipman says.
The research appears in the journal Science. Pike says he needs to find paintings a few thousand years old than he has so far to make his case for Neanderthal art. He and his Spanish colleagues are headed back to find it.
Graffiti from ancient aliens?
Ogg: Ma look! - When Ogg put hand on wall Ogg sneeze!
Ogg’s Mother: O look now Ogg you’ve given yourself a nosebleed.
or they were made by extraterrestrials?
Neanderthals ARE humans and Europeans carry their DNA
Looks like they were all right-handed.
I have a business partner who is a Neanderthal.
The first thing I thought of was that picture. I never get tired of it. really
the trouble with the neanderthal theory is that you see a lot of this rock art in north africa where modern humans hung out for many thousands of years before crossing over into europe.
So... spray paint was invented 30,000 years ago,
and these guys’ next invention was “GoJo” to get the stuff off the back of their left hand.
If the DNA evidence is correct and they did interbreed, then why isn't it conceivable that the painting was learned behavior from 'modern' humans?
Amazing to examine, “from the outside”, the conclusions that folks reach based on their evolutionary, millions of years assumptions. And they don’t even understand that they HAVE assumptions.
I think there is a mystery being missed in this story..
Where did the ‘paint’ come from?
Being Neanderthals, how is it they ‘discovered’ how to make and use paint (or plant dye)?
Also, those are some really small fingers for a Neanderthal.
Another closer study revealed that right below the hand is a copyright sign and date. Details to follow.
Wolves and coyotes are generally agreed to be different species.
And yet there are many coyote populations that are 1-4% of wolf ancestry - much as most human populations are apparently of 1-4% of Neanderthal ancestry.
Wolves and coyotes are closely related.
Humans and Neanderthals were closely related.
But they are NOT the same species.
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