Last year, the worlds of archaeology and anthropology received an astonishing surprise! Now the oldest cave paintings known yet were found in Spain, and made by Neanderthals. They are also the first-known Neanderthal paintings ever discovered.
We know that Neanderthals, instead of humans, made the paintings because of a type of carbon-dating using uranium-thorium, which dated the top layer of rock. These paintings predate the time humans moved into the area by 20,000 years.
At 65,000 years old, this makes them the oldest cave paintings yet discovered.
The paintings are quite abstract, with geometric shapes and hand prints, as well as rudimentary attempts at animal depictions.
This, of course, raises another concern. Are we as humans the definition of higher cognition, with the ability to create art and self-expression? Researchers are now saying, with this recent discovery, perhaps not.
Professor Chris Stringer, a researcher at London’s National History Museum, told BBC News that the cave paintings in Spain “seem to remove any doubt” about whether Neanderthals were capable of this type of cognition and self-expression. Although the animals in the cave art in Spain might have been added on later by humans because they have not been dated yet.
Neanderthals have been tentatively credited for cave paintings in the past, although the dates of these examples were later on in time than humans came into the scene. So we never knew for sure. These paintings in Spain, however, are far older than the time humans ever moved into this area of Europe. Scientists and researchers are claiming that this cave art was definitely made by Neanderthals!
Beyond being the now oldest-known cave art in the world, this discovery bears another revolutionary thought. Humans might not be the great thinkers of this world. Intelligence can be found everywhere in the animal kingdom, and isn't always excluded to humanity.
We should use our ancestor's cave art as a powerful lesson. We are all here to share this home. We may begin to lose the incredible capabilities of the other species, and other avenues of intelligence that humans do not possess.
I hope this discovery proves a critical point. We are not one to talk.