Famous cave paintings in Spain could be from Neanderthals not humans

Jun 15, 2012
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Some of the most famous cave paintings in the world are on the walls of the cave in El Castillo, Spain. The paintings include what's called the Panel of Hands that shows where ancient humans held their hands up to the cave wall and painted around them. Or at least, the hand art has long been believed to have been created by ancient humans.

The paintings are important because they're some of the oldest ever discovered and marked the beginning of a figurative art. However, a new method of determining the age of some of the paintings in the cave has led to questions on if it was early humans or Neanderthals that painted the hands. The paintings of hands could, in fact, predate the arrival of modern humans in Europe. Alastair Pike is the scientist using the new dating method, and he believes that the paintings are at least 40,800 years old.

At that, age according to Pike, Neanderthals had been in Europe for 200,000 to 300,000 years and modern humans and just arrived from Africa. There is a big chance that humans could have painted the hands on the walls very shortly after arriving in the area Pike admits. His technique dates the calcium carbonate that naturally forms in layers on top of the paintings, which is likened to a type of shellac. Pike says that the paintings underneath these calcium carbonate layers have to be older than the first layer opening the chance for the paintings to be much older than believed. Parts of the cave are known to have much newer images painted virtually on top of significantly older images.

[via NPR]


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