Neanderthals made beautiful things.
Guardian sheds new light on our so-called primitive cousins, the Neanderthals, by looking at the the oldest cave paintings ever found:
Now comes what could be the final nail in the coffin of the “unintelligent Neanderthals” myth: they might have been the first human species to paint in caves.
Using state-of-the-art techniques scientists have dated cave paintings at 11 locations in north Spain, including the Unesco World Heritage sites of Altamira, El Castillo and Tito Bustillo. Samples from 50 paintings of different styles were collected and the scientists discovered that a red disc on the wall of the El Castillo cave had to be more than 40,800 years old.
“This is currently Europe’s oldest-dated art, by at least 4,000 years,” said Alistair Pike, of the University of Bristol, who led the research. “We know the modern humans arrived in Europe between 42,000 and 41,000 years ago.”
Nearby hand stencils, formed by blowing paint against a hand pressed against a cave wall, were at least 37,300 years old. The results are published on Thursday in the journal Science.
Neanderthals arrived in Europe about 250,000 years ago and, if the dates of the cave paintings at El Castillo are correct, it is probable that they made them. “Perhaps we should start thinking of [Neanderthals] as the European brand of Homo sapiens, morphologically different from what we call the modern humans in Africa,” said João Zilhão, of the University of Barcelona, an author on the Science paper. “But they were sapient people as well – that is probably the implication of the last decade of results.”