First-Ever Neanderthal Paintings Discovered

Nerja caves in Spain contain art that pre-dates Homo sapiens
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 12, 2012 4:08 PM CST
Cave paintings in Spain: The work of Neanderthals?   (Nerja Cave Foundation)

(Newser) – Cave paintings in Spain may be the oldest ever found and the first known by Neanderthal artists, New Scientist reports. Oddly resembling a DNA double helix, the paintings actually depict seals—which locals in Malaga, Spain, would have eaten at the time. Charcoal remains near the paintings, in Spain's Nerja caves, date back to about 43,000 years ago—noticeably older than the 30,000-year-old Chauvet paintings in France.

But dating the paint pigments is tricky and won't happen until after next year. Even hazier, early Homo sapiens may have painted them; hard to say, although evidence points to Neanderthals lingering in that region of Spain long after Homo sapiens had replaced them in central Europe. But if Neanderthals were the painters, it's "an academic bombshell," says one expert. Until now, Neanderthals were considered incapable of creating art.

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