In DepthArchaeology

Europe's first artists were Neandertals

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Science  23 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6378, pp. 852-853
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6378.852

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Summary

Once seen as brute cavemen, Neandertals have gained stature as examples of sophisticated technology and behavior have turned up in their former territory across Europe. But few researchers imagined these vanished cousins of modern humans engaging in one of the most haunting practices in prehistory: creating paintings—vehicles for symbolic expression—in the darkness of caves. Now, archaeologists may have to accept that Neandertals were the original cave artists. A team of dating experts and archaeologists reports in Science that simple creations—the outline of a hand, an array of lines, and a painted cave formation—from three caves in Spain all date to more than 64,800 years ago, at least 20,000 years before modern humans reached Europe. Shells from a fourth Spanish cave, pigment-stained and pierced as if for use as body ornaments, are even older, a team including some of the same researchers reports in a second paper, in Science Advances.