Newly dated rock drawings and shell ornaments predate Homo sapiens in Europe by at least 20,000 years
© P. Saura
Neandertals drew on cave walls and made personal ornaments long before encountering Homo sapiens, two new studies find. These discoveries paint bulky, jut-jawed Neandertals as the mental equals of ancient humans, scientists say.
Rock art depicting abstract shapes and hand stencils in three Spanish caves dates back to at least 64,800 years ago, researchers report in the Feb. 23 Science. If these new estimates hold up, the Spanish finds become the world’s oldest known examples of cave art, preceding evidence of humans’ arrival in Europe by at least 20,000 years (SN Online: 11/2/11).
The finds raise the possibility that “Neandertals took modern humans into caves and showed them how to paint,” says archaeologist Francesco d’Errico of the University of