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Neanderthals thought like we do

As early as 64,000 years ago Iberian Neanderthals created cave paintings

At least 70,000 years ago Homo sapiens used perforated marine shells and colour pigments. From around 40,000 years ago he created decorative items, jewellery and cave art in Europe. Using Uranium-Thorium dating an international team of researchers co-directed by Dirk Hoffmann of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, now demonstrates that more than 115,000 years ago Neanderthals produced symbolic objects, and that they created cave art more than 20,000 years before modern humans first arrived in Europe. The researchers conclude that our cousins' cognitive abilities were equivalent to our own.

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Images

La Pasiega, section C. Cave wall with paintings. The scalariform (ladder shape) composed of red horizontal and vertical lines (centre left) dates to older than 64,000 years and was made by Neanderthals.
(Credit: P. Saura)
Panel 78 in La Pasiega. The scalariform (ladder shape) composed of red horizontal and vertical lines dates to older than 64,000 years and was made by Neanderthals.
(Credit: C.D Standish, A.W.G. Pike and D.L. Hoffmann)
Dirk Hoffmann and Alistair Pike sampling calcite from a calcite crust on top of the red scalariform sign in La Pasiega.
(Credit: J. Zilhão)
Calcite crust on top of the red scalariform sign. The U-Th method dates the formation of the crust which gives a minimum age for the underlying painting.
(Credit: J. Zilhão)
Drawing of Panel 78 in La Pasiega by Breuil et al. (1913). The red scalariform (ladder) symbol has a minimum age of 64,000 years but it is unclear if the animals and other symbols were painted later.
(Credit: Breuil et al. (1913))
Cave wall in Maltravieso with Neanderthal hand stencil, almost completely covered with calcite. It is older than 66,000 years (see Fig. 7 for enhanced photo).
(Credit: H. Collado)
Colour enhanced version of Fig. 6. Cave wall in Maltravieso with Neanderthal hand stencil, almost completely covered with calcite. It is older than 66,000 years.
(Credit: H. Collado)
Colour enhanced version of Fig. 6. Cave wall in Maltravieso with Neanderthal hand stencil older than 66,000 years.
(Credit: H. Collado)
Panel 3 in Maltravieso Cave showing 3 hand stencils (centre right, centre top and top left). One has been dated to at least 66,000 years ago and must have been made by a Neanderthal. See colour enhanced version in Fig.10.
(Credit: H. Collado)
Panel 3 in Maltravieso Cave showing 3 hand stencils (centre right, centre top and top left). One has been dated to at least 66,000 years ago and must have been made by a Neanderthal (colour enhanced).
(Credit: H. Collado)
Curtain formation in Ardales cave with red pigment painted on it. The curtain continued to form over parts with pigment after it was painted. A part of the formation was broken off, exposing the pigment layer inside the curtain.
(Credit: D.L. Hoffmann)
Curtain formation in Ardales cave with red pigment painted on it. Many areas of this stalagmite formation were painted by Neanderthals in at least two episodes - one before 65,000 years ago and another about 45,000 years ago.
(Credit: C.D. Standish)
Drilling a core from the flowstone in Cueva de los Aviones for dating.
(Credit: J. Zilhão)
Flowstone section in Cueva de los Aviones covering the archaeological horizon.
(Credit: J. Zilhão)
Cueva de los Aviones during the excavation in 1985.
(Credit: J. Zilhão)
Picture of Cueva de los Aviones which is partly eroded away. In the left corner is the remaining sediment section covered by a flowstone with a basal age of 115 ka.
(Credit: J. Zilhão)
Cueva de los Aviones, seen from the breakwater of Cartagena harbour.
(Credit: J. Zilhão)
Perforated shells found in sediments in Cueva de los Aviones and date to between 115,000 and 120,000 years.
(Credit: J. Zilhão)
A shell with remnants of pigments found in sediments in Cueva de los Aviones. It dates to between 115,000 and 120,000 years.
(Credit: J. Zilhão)
 

Video


La Pasiega / MP4 video
(Credit: D.L. Hoffmann)