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Faces from the Ice Age

What could be the oldest lifelike drawings of human faces have been uncovered in a cave in southern France.
The images were first recognised over 50 years ago, but were then lost after doubts were cast on their authenticity.

Now, one German scientist, Dr Michael Rappenglueck, of Munich University, says it is time the pictures were reassessed.

And there could be other surprises awaiting archaeologists, he believes, when they look not at the walls of prehistoric painted caves, but at the floor...

More here.


Are these the oldest known pictures of "real people"? Male and female faces can be seen in the rock. Some researchers believe they could be 15,000 years old or more – from a time when Northern Europe would have been in the grip of an Ice Age.

SOURCE: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2012385.stm

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I was just coming over to post this... Fantastic stuff.

I remember reading about these very lifelike ancient portraits years ago but I thought whoever was writing about them must have made them up cos I could find nothing else about them.
When I see this early art the reverse question always occurs to me - How did we loose the abilities they had for so long?
Graham Hancock (and others) have been on for a while about the idea that Ice Age civilizations reached a higher level than conventional history/archaeology admits.

In the early 60s I was lucky enough to visit the caves at Lascaux, but of course I was too young to really appreciate what I saw. But I still have the souvenir pics I bought then.
But doesn't beat that stone age skull that turned out to look like Captain Picard :)

But what is it you think we should have lost for so long?
But what is it you think we should have lost for so long?
The ability to get eaten by cave bears.

Lots of very interesting stuff on the possible reasons for the traditional rock art in Paul Deveraux' Haunted Land, which I'm reading at the moment.

The portraits are interesting because they do appear to be very sketchy, though- there is one of a bald man with a beard that looks as though it has guide lines to position the eyes and so on. That may just be cracks in the rock, though, I suppose- if so it may be that the pictures were a case of finding the design in the patterns on the rock and drawing it out, if you see what I mean.

It would be very interesting to see what these people were able to do with perishable materials, but unless someone hits big on the whole time machine thing, I guess we never will.
Originally posted by Breakfast
Lots of very interesting stuff on the possible reasons for the traditional rock art in Paul Deveraux' Haunted Land, which I'm reading at the moment.

Ooo, I was thinking of getting that, I'm assuming it's rather good. What's the gist of it? :)
It is basically tracing Shamanic traditions and their influences globally- starting in the US and Mexico looking at petroglyphs and ground forms (the Nazca Lines and various less well known locations) and then looking at the very similar ideas and forms buried under european sites and traditions. I haven't actually got to anything about manifestations yet, but I'm only half way through. I have read one of his other books and I have to say he is a consistently very interesting but also seems a bit more in touch with the concept of scientific evidence than some other writers that might be put in a similar area.

Well worth reading.

Thanks for that.

I've been to Nazca - wonderful, fascinating place, despite the pilot of the light plane having a liking for aerial acrobatics.:(;). Be interesting see what Paul D has to say.
Cave art: men and women each did their own thing

Analysis of stencilled handprints found on the walls of an Indonesian cave suggest that prehistoric men and women chose not to mix genders when it came to this enigmatic art form.

Experts from France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) looked at handprints left at the Gua Masri II cave in Indonesia, using a new computer model to determine whether the hand which made the mark was male or female.

They found that the male cave dwellers grouped their handprints in given locations and the females put their own handprints in their own areas.

"This discovery supports evidence put forward by ethnologists showing that prehistoric man had different rituals than women," Jean-Michel Chazine of France's Centre for Research and Documentation on Oceania (Credo) told AFP this week.

"The findings suggest that the female role was far more important than was previously thought," he said, venturing that women in primitive societies might have played the part of magician or shaman.

The new software is based on research that can calculate the gender of a hand's owner according to the proportionate lengths of the ring and index fingers.

These two fingers are of equal length among women but there is a big difference in their length among men.

The two Gua Masri sites, found in limestone rock in the highlands of Borneo in the 1990s by a Franco-Indonesian team, comprise hundreds of hand stencils that are believed to be between 8,000 and 20,000 years old.

CNRS archaeologists are looking at other handprints at the Pech Merle and Cosquer caves in France, at the Cueva de las Manos Pintadas in Argentina and other caves in Indonesia.

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The Times, June 05, 2006

Cave face 'the oldest portrait on record'
By Adam Sage

A DRAWING discovered by a potholer on the wall of a cave in the west of France appears to be the oldest known portrait of a human face.

The 27,000-year-old work was found by a local pensioner, Gérard Jourdy, in the Vilhonneur grotto near Angoulême.

Drawn with calcium carbonate, and using the bumps in the wall to give form to the face, it features two horizontal lines for the eyes, another for the mouth and a vertical line for the nose. “The portrait of this face is unique,” said Jean Airvaux, a researcher at the French Directorate of Cultural Affairs. “We have other drawings, but they are more recent. Here, it could be the oldest representation of a human face.”

Archaeologists are particularly interested in the Vilhonneur cave because there are several drawings, including one of a hand in cobalt blue, along with animal and human remains.

Jean-François Baratin, the regional director of archaeology in western France, said that there were only two known examples of prehistoric caves from this era containing both bones and drawings. The other is at Cussac in the Dordogne.

The discovery was made by M Jourdy in November, but kept secret until February while the site was sealed. The results of a scientific analysis were made public on Friday.

M Baratin said ribs, a thigh bone and a tibia taken from the floor of the cave had been dated by scientists in Miami, as were the drawings. These turned out to be about 11,000 years older than the renowned paintings at Lascaux in the nearby Dordogne.Michel Boutant, chairman of the local Charente department council, said: ‘The face reminded me of a Modigliani portrait.”

Copyright 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.
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A woman's touch: Prehistoric cave paintings were made by women as well as men, scientists discover
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 9:41 PM on 05th July 2009

For thousands of years, these artworks have been credited as the genius of cave men.
Scientists believed these artistic visions were dreamed up and executed by male hands.
But after more than 25,000 years, the results of a recent study have indicated prehistoric female artists also helped to create the famous 'Spotted Horses' cave mural and various others.

After re-analysing the hand stencils inside the Pech Marle and Gargas caves in France, an archaeologist from Pennsylvania State University has said that 'even a superficial examination of published photos suggested to me that there were lots of female hands there'.
Speaking to National Geographic magazine, Professor Dean Snow discussed his findings in the French caves and in the El Castillo cave in Spain.

His findings suggest the woman's role in prehistoric society was much greater than previously thought.
He said: 'I had access to lots of people of European descent who were willing to let me scan their hands as reference data.'

Snow also examined stencils in the Gargas cave - also in France - and discovered the artwork there suppported his findings in Peche Marle.
He said to the magazine: 'We don't know what the role of artists were in the Upper Paleolithic society (roughly 20,000 to 40,000 years ago) generally, but it is a step forward to be able to say that a strong majority of them were women.'

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ ... women.html
Giant Rats Quest Leads Scientists to Ancient Face Carvings

Great title! The movie about it will no doubt feature live rats.

Quest for Extinct Giant Rats Leads Scientists to Ancient Face Carvings
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 095557.htm

Grou.p of petroglyphs in Lena Hara Cave, East Timor (Credit: John Brush)

ScienceDaily (Feb. 11, 2011) — Ancient stone faces carved into the walls of a well-known limestone cave in East Timor have been discovered by a team searching for fossils of extinct giant rats.

The team of archaeologists and palaeontologists were working in Lene Hara Cave on the northeast tip of East Timor.

"Looking up from the cave floor at a colleague sitting on a ledge, my head torch shone on what seemed to be a weathered carving," CSIRO's Dr Ken Aplin said.

"I shone the torch around and saw a whole panel of engraved prehistoric human faces on the wall of the cave.

"The local landowners with whom we were working were stunned by the findings. They said the faces had chosen that day to reveal themselves because they were pleased by the field work we were doing."

The Lene Hara carvings, or petroglyphs, are frontal, stylised faces each with eyes, a nose and a mouth. One has a circular headdress with rays that frame the face.

Uranium isotope dating by colleagues at the University of Queensland revealed the 'sun ray' face to be around 10,000 to 12,000 years old, placing it in the late Pleistocene. The other faces could not be dated but are likely to be equally ancient.

Lene Hara cave has been visited by archaeologists and rock art specialists since the early 1960s to study its rock paintings, which include hand stencils, boats, animals, human figures and linear decorative motifs. The age of the pigment art in Lene Hara is currently unknown but a fragment of limestone with traces of embedded red ochre was dated previously by Professor Sue O'Connor of The Australian National University to over 30,000 years ago.

Although stylised engravings of faces occur throughout Melanesia, Australia and the Pacific, the Lene Hara petroglyphs are the only examples that have been dated to the Pleistocene. No other petroglyphs of faces are known to exist anywhere on the island of Timor.

"Recording and dating the rock art of Timor should be a priority for future research, because of its cultural significance and value in understanding the development of art in our past," Professor O'Connor said.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by CSIRO Australia.

Journal Reference:

1. Sue O'Connor, Ken Aplin, Emma St Pierre and Yue-Xing Feng. Faces of the ancestors revealed: discovery and dating of a Pleistocene-age petroglyph in Lene Hara Cave, East Timor. Antiquity, Volume: 84 Number: 325
Carving found in Gower cave could be oldest rock art

An archaeologist believes a wall carving in a south Wales cave could be Britain's oldest example of rock art.
The faint scratchings of a speared reindeer are believed to have been carved by a hunter-gatherer in the Ice Age more than 14,000 years ago.
The archaeologist who found the carving on the Gower peninsula, Dr George Nash, called it "very, very exciting."
Experts are working to verify the discovery, although its exact location is being kept secret for now.

Dr Nash, a part-time academic for Bristol University, made the discovery while at the caves in September 2010.
He told BBC Wales: "It was a strange moment of being in the right place at the right time with the right kit.
"For 20-odd years I have been taking students to this cave and talking about what was going on there.
"They went back to their cars and the bus and I decided to have a little snoop around in the cave as I've never had the chance to do it before.
"Within a couple of minutes I was scrubbing at the back of a very strange and awkward recess and there a very faint image bounced in front of me - I couldn't believe my eyes."

He said that although the characteristics of the reindeer drawing match many found in northern Europe around 4,000-5,000 years later, the discovery of flint tools in the cave in the 1950s could hold the key to the carving's true date.

"In the 1950s, Cambridge University undertook an excavation there and found 300-400 pieces of flint and dated it to between 12,000-14,000 BC.
"This drawing was done with the right hand and the niche is very, very tight and the engraving has been done by somebody using a piece of flint who has drawn a classic reindeer design.

"My colleagues in England have been doing some work in Nottinghamshire at Creswell Crags and got very nice dates for a red deer and one or two other images of around 12,000-14,000 BC.
"I think this [newly found carving] may be roughly the same period or may be even earlier."

The limestone cliffs along the Gower coast are known for their archaeological importance.
The Red Lady of Paviland, actually the remains of a young male, is the earliest formal human burial to have been found in western Europe. It is thought to be roughly around 29,000 years old.
It was discovered at Goat's Hole Cave at Paviland on Gower in 1823 by William Buckland, then a geology professor at Oxford University.

Dr Nash added: "We know from the glacial geology of the area this was an open area just before the ice limit came down from the glaciers 15,000-20,000 years ago and it stops just about 2km short of the cave site.
"We know hunter fisher gatherers were roaming around this landscape, albeit seasonally, and they were burying their dead 30,000 years ago and making their mark through artistic endeavour between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago."

The find is now being officially dated and verified by experts at the National Museum of Wales and Cadw.
Its location will be revealed to the public in the future.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-sout ... s-14272126
Excellent I'd have missed that and it's right on my doorstep. Thanks for posting.
Crawled about all over this cave twice now, I can't bloody find it.
oldrover said:
Crawled about all over this cave twice now, I can't bloody find it.
Has the location been revealed yet?
Its location will be revealed to the public in the future.
Perhaps you got the wrong cave?
Has the location been revealed yet?

Not intentionally but if you know Gower you can tell which one it is from the article.

I now also realise having re-read the article after coming back from there this morning that I was within inches of it both times. It's hidden at the moment and the article even tells you that and how. So I won't try to uncover it because that would be intrusive.

One thing I'm not sure about though is something that's in another chamber there, it looks like a geometric pattern carved into one of the faces. It looks too regular and parallel to be natural wear or veining.

It's a very beautiful cave from the outside, it really looks the part. Standing outside you can easily imagine a group of paleolithic nomads hanging about there. The trouble is though, and this worries me about revealing it's location, is that the cave is so easily accessible. And what must really give the archaeologists kittens, is the amount of Graffiti scratched into the walls of the first chamber over the last few years.

I worry about the balance between preserving something so precious and allowing the public the chance to see it. Maybe it's best if it's never revealed, after all Gower has seen it's fair share of theft and vandalism of ancient objects over the years.

And that's before I start going all Elgin Marbles over the Red Lady.
I worry about the balance between preserving something so precious and allowing the public the chance to see it. Maybe it's best if it's never revealed, after all Gower has seen it's fair share of theft and vandalism of ancient objects over the years.

It was on the news yesterday that someone has been fiddling about with it already, scrapping at it and smearing mud over it. Dr Nash is now taking about gating the section off. The BBC were there yesterday filming him stooped in front of it and also them entering the cave. The thing that strikes us around here is if as they said again yesterday it's still being kept secret, what else they could do to give it's location away. If there was any doubt left from the article then the TV pictures show you were it is down the nearest millimeter. And this after the oddballs have started defacing it.

On a relate note, I went to Paviland cave yesterday for the first time ever, it's an amazingly beautiful location, and aside from the very formal and meticulously executed early Victorian graffiti, someone I'd say within the last month or so has carefully carved three runes into the head of the burial area.
oldrover said:
It was on the news yesterday that someone has been fiddling about with it already, scrapping at it and smearing mud over it.

One wonders why people feel the need to do such things.
Jerry_B said:
oldrover said:
It was on the news yesterday that someone has been fiddling about with it already, scrapping at it and smearing mud over it.

One wonders why people feel the need to do such things.

Who can fathom the minds of the lumpenproletariat?
What makes it especially unfathomable is that you either have to have a good working knowledge of local archaeology or to be willing to spend time looking it all up to work out the location, as I did. So what kind of mentality does that point to?

The best case scenario I can up with is that it was some sort of interested layman, like myself, who didn't have the sense to know not to touch.
Prehistoric cave etchings 'created by three-year-olds'

Prehistoric etchings found in a cave in France are the work of children as young as three, according to research.
The so-called finger flutings were discovered at the Cave of a Hundred Mammoths in Rouffignac, alongside cave art dating back some 13,000 years.

Cambridge University researchers recently developed a method identifying the gender and age of the artists.
It is thought the most prolific was a girl aged five. The artists ran their hands down the cave's soft surfaces.

"Flutings made by children appear in every chamber throughout the caves," said archaeologist Jess Cooney, who has pioneered the research in conjunction with Dr Leslie Van Gelder of Walden University in the US.
"We have found marks by children aged between three and seven-years-old - and we have been able to identify four individual children by matching up their marks.
"The most prolific of the children who made flutings was aged around five - and we are almost certain the child in question was a girl."

Each year thousands of people visit the caves in the Dordogne region of western France to admire drawings of mammoths, rhinoceros and horses found within the 8km cave system, which were discovered in the 16th Century.
It was not until 1956 that experts realised that some of the most dramatic were prehistoric.

Archaeologists first determined children had produced some of the finger flutings in 2006. Unlike the sketchings that appear elsewhere in the caves, the markings are made without the application of a colour pigment.
"One cavern is so rich in flutings made by children that it suggests it was a special space for them, but whether for play or ritual is impossible to tell."
Finger fluting also appears in caves in France, Spain, New Guinea and Australia.

"We don't know why people made them," said Ms Cooney, adding that they may have been part of "initiation rituals" or "simply something to do on a rainy day". :D

"One cavern is so rich in flutings made by children that it suggests it was a special space for them . . . "

Forthcoming . . . the startling theory that cave-dwellers were really caravan-dwellers who buried their eggs is rock fissures. As the babies hatched, only the strongest could claw their way out, creating cavern systems under the earth.

Explains the green children, anaemic fairies and some other things . . . can I have that grant now please? :)
Ancient 'paint factory' unearthed
By Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent, BBC News

The kits used by humans 100,000 years ago to make paint have been found at the famous archaeological site of Blombos Cave in South Africa.
The hoard includes red and yellow pigments, shell containers, and the grinding cobbles and bone spatulas to work up a paste - everything an ancient artist might need in their workshop.
This extraordinary discovery is reported in the journal Science.

It is proof, say researchers, of our early ancestors' complexity of thought.
"This is significant because it is pushing back the boundaries of our understanding of when Homo sapiens - people like us - first became modern," said Prof Christopher Henshilwood from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
"These finds indicate that humans were certainly thinking in a modern way, in a way that is cognitively advanced, at least 100,000 years ago," he told BBC News.

Blombos Cave on the southern Cape Coast, 300km east of Cape Town, has been giving up remarkable archaeological treasures for more than 20 years.
Scientists have been scraping down through its sandy sediments to find all manner of artefacts left by the Middle Stone Age people who occupied the limestone cavity.
In 2002, researchers described 70,000-year-old blocks of ochre. This soft stone contains iron oxides that can be used as a pigment, or colouring agent.

But apart from some engravings on the blocks, there was little hard evidence to determine the precise purpose of the Blombos ochre. The new items seem to have had a much more obvious use - as the equipment to process paints.
The finds include abalone shells with ochre residues inside. There are tools made of quartzite that were presumably employed to hammer and grind ochre into a powder in the shells. And there is evidence that charcoal and oil from seal bones were being added to the mix. It seems bone implements were also being used to turn and lift the paint pastes.

All these artefacts were found together, almost as if someone had put them down intending to retrieve them at a later time, but then never coming back. Sands blown in through the cave entrance subsequently buried the kits and locked them away until they were excavated in 2008.
In the intervening three years, the finds have been subjected to a series of tests and assessments.

Ochre can have non-artistic applications such as an additive in glues, but co-researcher Francesco d'Errico from the University of Bordeaux says the analysis of the residues in the shells points strongly to the production of paints.
"The absence of a resin or a wax suggests the ochre was not used to make a glue or a mastic. We think it may have been used to make a paint or a design," he explained.

Prof Henshilwood added: "It's possible the paint was used to paint bodies, human skin. It could have been used to paint designs on leather or other objects. It could have been used for paintings on walls, although the surfaces of southern African caves are not ideal for the long-term preservation of rock art."

The mere fact though that paints are being manufactured in a systematic way is indicative of a level of advanced thinking.
It would have required a high degree of planning to bring together all of the elements of the kits; and if art really was the purpose, it suggests the cave dwellers of Blombos were capable of symbolic thought - the ability to let one thing represent another in the mind.
This ability has been posited as the giant leap in human evolution that set our species apart from the rest of the animal world.

Understanding when and where this behaviour first emerged is a key quest for scientists studying human origins.
Until now, arguably the earliest examples of conceptual thinking were the pieces of shell jewellery discovered at Skhul Cave in Israel and from Oued Djebbana in Algeria.
These artefacts have been dated to 90,000-100,000 years ago. The Blombos paint kits now sit alongside these other finds.

Prof Chris Stringer from London's Natural History Museum commented: "Twenty or 30 years ago, there was a view that Europe was really the place where all the big action was taking place - wonderful painted caves 30,000-35,000 years ago, and people decorating their bodies.
"We now know that this behaviour goes back far further in Africa; it goes back to 100,000 years, perhaps even more than 100,000 years.
"People were starting to express social identity in completely new ways. And there is a view that this behaviour is linked with complex language. So, it may indicate these people were communicating in a fully modern way," he told BBC News.

Ancient horses' spotted history reflected in cave art
By Jennifer Carpenter, Science reporter, BBC News

Scientists have found evidence that leopard-spotted horses roamed Europe 25,000 years ago alongside humans.
Until now, studies had only recovered the DNA of black and brown coloured coats from fossil specimens.
New genetic evidence suggests "dappled" horses depicted in European cave art were inspired by real life, and are less symbolic than previously thought.
The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Horses, which were the most abundant large mammal roaming Eurasian 25,000 years ago, were a key component of early European diets.
So it is not surprising that the cave art of this time had a certain equestrian flare - horses make up 30% of the animals depicted in European cave paintings from this era.

Biologists, interested in the diversity of European animals before the last Ice Age, are interested in how accurately these early artistic impressions portrayed the colouring of the horses that lived alongside the ancient humans.
"It was critical to ensure that the horse depictions from the cave paintings were based on real-life experiences rather than products of the imagination," explained lead author Arne Ludwig from The Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin.

In previous work, Dr Ludwig, and his colleagues, recovered only the DNA of black and brown coat colours from the prehistoric horse bones.
But the dappled coats of the 25,000 year horses depicted at the Pech Merle cave complex in France convinced the team to take a second look.

By revisiting the fossil DNA of 31 horse specimens collected from across Europe, from Siberia to the Iberian Peninsula, the researchers found that six of the animals carried a mutation that causes modern horses to have white and black spots.
Of the remaining 25 specimens, 18 were brown coloured and six were black.

Dr Ludwig explained that all three of the horse colours - black, brown and spotted - depicted in the cave paintings have now been found to exist as real coat-colours in the ancient horse populations.
The researchers say that these three colours likely provided enough variation for humans to create the diversity of coat colours and patterns seen in modern horses.

The domestication of horses, which produced modern breeds, is thought to have begun about 4,600 years old in the steppe between modern Ukraine and Kazakhstan

Neanderthal cave paintings

Cave paintings in Malaga, Spain, could be the oldest yet found – and the first to have been created by Neanderthals.

Looking oddly akin to the DNA double helix, the images in fact depict the seals that the locals would have eaten, says José Luis Sanchidrián at the University of Cordoba, Spain. They have "no parallel in Palaeolithic art", he adds. His team say that charcoal remains found beside six of the paintings – preserved in Spain's Nerja caves – have been radiocarbon dated to between 43,500 and 42,300 years old.

First Painters May Have Been Neanderthal, Not Human
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/ ... paintings/
By Brandon KeimEmail Author June 14, 2012 | 2:10 pm | Categories: Anthropology, Brains and Behavior

European cave paintings are older than previously thought, raising the possibility that Neanderthals rather than Homo sapiens were the earliest painters.

That’s not yet certain: The paintings may have been made by humans at an unexpectedly early date, which would itself raise intriguing questions, though none so tantalizing as Neanderthal painters.

“It would not be surprising if the Neanderthals were indeed Europe’s first cave artists,” said João Zilhão, an archaeologist at Spain’s University of Barcelona, at a press conference on June 13.

Researchers led by Zilhão and Alistair Pike of the United Kingdom’s University of Bristol measured the ages of 50 paintings in 11 Spanish caves. The art, considered evidence of sophisticated symbolic thinking, has traditionally been attributed to modern humans, who reached Europe about 40,000 years ago.

Traditional methods of dating cave paintings, however, are relatively clumsy. Even the previous best technique — carbon dating, or translating amounts of carbon molecule decay into measurements of passing time — couldn’t discern differences of a few thousand years.

Instead of carbon, Pike and João Zilhão’s team calibrated their molecular clocks by studying mineral deposits that form naturally on cave surfaces, including paintings. The thicker the deposits, the older the painting. And as the researchers describe in a June 14 Science paper, some of the paintings are very old indeed.

"Anyone ... could walk into El Castillo cave and see a Neanderthal hand on the wall."
– Alistair Pike
Some handprint outlines are at least 37,000 years old. Several red circles are at least 41,000 years old and may be several thousand years older. That’s 10,000 years older than paintings in France, which until now were considered the oldest cave art.
If H. sapiens made the Spanish paintings, they would have needed to arrive in Europe already possessing a symbolic art tradition, something for which there’s no other evidence.

Alternatively, humans may have arrived in Europe and promptly learned to paint, raising the question of why such an important cultural leap occurred so suddenly, in that particular place. Maybe something about the environment, such as competition with Neanderthals, made symbolic thinking important.

Or — and this is still just a hypothesis, one that needs to be tested by dating of many more paintings — the artists were not human. Maybe they were Neanderthals.

If so, the paintings would be a pièce de résistance addition to a decade of Neanderthal research that’s showed how our closest evolutionary relatives, long considered less intelligent than humans, were truly sophisticated thinkers capable of symbolism, social planning and empathy. Paintings would provide the last bit of evidence needed to throw out the image of Neanderthals as archetypally dumb, Zilhao said.

“What’s really exciting about this possibility,” said Pike, “is that anyone, because it’s open to the public, could walk into El Castillo cave and see a Neanderthal hand on the wall.”

First Image: The Panel of Hands in El Castillo Cave, Spain. The hand stencils are dated to 37,300 years old and the red disk to 40,600 years old, making them the oldest European cave paintings. (Photo: Pedro Saura) [High-resolution]

Citation: “U-Series Dating of Paleolithic Art in 11 Caves in Spain.” By A. W. G. Pike, D. L. Hoffmann, M. García-Diez, P. B. Pettitt, J. Alcolea, R. De Balbín, C. González-Sainz, C. de las Heras, J. A. Lasheras, R. Montes, J. Zilhão. Science, Vol. 336 Issue 6087, June 15 2012.
From a red dot on a cave wall to Damian Hirst's dot paintings.

We've come a long way in 40,000 years.