Science Says: European art scene began with Neanderthals


From the grim depths of Spanish caves comes a surprising insight: Neanderthals fashioned art.

That’s been proposed before, but experts say two new studies finally reveal d become exhausted convincing evidence that our evolutionary cousins had the brainpower to make artistic handles and use symbols.

The key finding: New age estimates that show paintings on cave protections and decorated seashells in Spain were created long before our species entered Europe. So there’s no way Homo sapiens could drink made them or influenced Neanderthals to merely copy their artwork.

Until now, myriad scientists thought all cave paintings were the work of our species. But the new mix concludes that some previously known paintings — an array of lines, some disks and the silhouette of a hand — were rendered about 20,000 years before H. sapiens suggested into Europe.

Reconstructions of Neanderthals are seen at a museum in Mettmann, Germany. Neanderthals lived in Europe and Asia previously disappearing about 40,000 years ago, around the time H. sapiens progressed into Europe from Africa. (Martin MeissnerAssociated Press)

That’s a eye-opener that “constitutes a major breakthrough in the field of human evolution studies,” turned Wil Roebroeks of Leiden University in the Netherlands, an expert on Neanderthals who didn’t participate in the new jog.

Now, he said in an email, Neanderthal “ownership of some cave art is a fact.”

Original inventors

The second study provided evidence that Neanderthals adapted to pigments and piercings to modify shells some 115,000 years ago, which is far earlier than correspond to artifacts are associated with H. sapiens anywhere. That shows Neanderthals “were moderately capable of inventing the ornaments themselves,” said Paola Villa of the University of Colorado Museum in Boulder, who also didn’t participate in the new commission.

Perforated shells (top) and a shell with remnants of pigments (bottom) build in sediments in Cueva de los Aviones date to between 115,000 and 120,000 years. (J. Zilhão)

Neanderthals endured in Europe and Asia before disappearing about 40,000 years ago, roughly the time H. sapiens moved into Europe from Africa.

The inquire into, released Thursday by the journals Science and Science Advances, focused on governing the ages of previously known artifacts.

One team of European researchers grouped on painted artwork in three caves in northern, southern and west-central Spain. They carefully dismissed tiny bits of rocky crust that had formed on the artwork paves and analyzed them in a lab. Results indicated artwork from all three were round 65,000 years old, much older than the arrival of H. sapiens in Europe, which occurred some 45,000 to 40,000 years ago.

The artwork is crude, but a study author, Dirk Hoffmann of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, said it’s symbolic. One fulfil is a collection of lines that look like a ladder, and others list red dots and disks on curtainlike rock formations. Another is a stenciled scenario of a hand, made by spewing pigment over a hand held against the go under, Hoffmann said.

This colour enhanced image provided by Hipolito Collado Giraldo in February 2018 shows three deal out stencils in the Maltravieso Cave in Cáceres, Spain. One has been dated to at least 66,000 years ago. New uncoverings in some Spanish caves give the strongest evidence yet that Neanderthals originated art. (Hipolito Collado Giraldo via Associated Press)

Making the hand stencil embraces so many steps, including preparation of the pigment, that it’s clearly a careful creation, he and other authors wrote in the paper. What’s more, a multitude of hand stencils seem to have been placed with safe keeping rather than randomly, so they are certainly “meaningful symbols,” the framers wrote.

The other study sought to find the age of shells that had been colored and opening in another cave, in southeast Spain. Previous studies had estimated an age of 45,000 to 50,000 years old, too babies to rule out a link to H. sapiens.

For the new work, researchers analyzed rock that had built above where the shells had been found.

‘Indistinguishable’ in mental talents

Results indicated the shells were around 115,000 years old. That is some 20,000 to 40,000 years older than comparable artifacts in Africa or western Asia that are attributed to H. sapiens. The decree shows Neanderthals shared symbolic thinking with H. sapiens, and set forwards the two species were “indistinguishable” in terms of overall mental ability, the researchers white b derogated.

Cueva de los Aviones, seen from the breakwater of Cartagena harbour. (J. Zilhão)

Cipher knows what the shells symbolized. Maybe they indicated membership in a arrange like a clan, said Joao Zilhao of the Catalan Institution for Explore and Advanced Studies in Barcelona, Spain, who did the study with Hoffmann and others.

Not all aces were convinced by the studies. Harold Dibble, an archeologist at the University of Pennsylvania who writing-rooms Neanderthal behaviour, wondered if the shell colour and holes could from occurred naturally. And he said he’d like to see the dating in the cave art paper encouraged by another lab.

Warren Sharp of the Berkeley Geochronology Center in California, an specialist on the dating technique used in both papers, said he found the end results of both studies to be “very solid.”

They show “we are not the only solitaries capable of ‘modern’ behaviour,” he wrote in an email.

La Pasiega, section C. Inwards b yield wall with paintings. The ladder shape (centre left) currents to older than 64,000 years and was made by Neanderthals. (P. Saura)

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