News & AnalysisArchaeology

Early Dates for Artistic Europeans

Science  01 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6085, pp. 1086-1087
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6085.1086

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Summary

The earliest known musical instruments—flutes of bird bone and mammoth ivory—were found in prehistoric caves in southwest Germany, as were the earliest mythical figurines. Now new radiocarbon dates put modern humans in one of these caves, Geissenklösterle, several thousand years earlier than previously thought. As far back as 42,000 years ago, while the last Neandertals were hanging on in western and southern Europe, modern humans were carving sculptures and making music in central Europe. The early dates, published online last month in the Journal of Human Evolution, also suggest to some researchers that certain artistic behaviors emerged first in Europe rather than Africa.