Scientists figured out which human ancestor made the first cave paintings — and it challenges one way we thought humans were unique

Business Insider | 2/23/2018 | Kevin Loria
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Long before early modern humans arrived in Europe, Neanderthals were painting in caves, leaving behind animal shapes and hand-prints.

They may also have been decorating shells before Homo sapiens did.

Stereotype - Neanderthal

This indicates that the stereotype of the brutish Neanderthal is wrong — they were cognitively closer to us than many think.

We often think of art and culture as exclusively the domain of humans — specifically our particular species, Homo sapiens.

Hominin - Species - Idea

But the more we learn about other early hominin species, the more it seems that idea may be wrong.

Long before what researchers refer to as "modern" humans ever reached Europe, our Neanderthal cousins were creating cultural objects and painting in caves in Spain, according to several recently published studies. The new research has pinpointed when some of the first European art that we know of was created.

Scientists - Cave - Paintings - Spain - Sites

According to the scientists, the earliest cave paintings in Spain (from three different sites) date back more than 64,000 years. These paintings are red and black in color and depict geometric shapes, hand-prints, hand stencils, and even animals like horses, deer, and birds.

The paintings were dated using a technique called uranium-thorium dating, which is far more precise for estimating the dates of such creations than the radiocarbon-dating method that was used in the past.

Discovery - Neanderthals - Chris - Standish - University

"This is an incredibly exciting discovery which suggests Neanderthals were much more sophisticated than is popularly believed," archaeologist Chris Standish of the University of Southampton, one of the two lead authors on the paper, said in a news release.

In the other new study, researchers used the same technique to reveal that Neanderthals may have engaged in creative or symbolic behavior long before these cave paintings were created. In the Cueva de los Aviones, in what is now southeast Spain, a collection of shells appears to be decorated with pigment and perforated in ways that...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Business Insider
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