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U-Th dating of carbonate crusts reveals Neandertal origin of Iberian cave art

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Science  23 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6378, pp. 912-915
DOI: 10.1126/science.aap7778

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Neandertal cave art

It has been suggested that Neandertals, as well as modern humans, may have painted caves. Hoffmann et al. used uranium-thorium dating of carbonate crusts to show that cave paintings from three different sites in Spain must be older than 64,000 years. These paintings are the oldest dated cave paintings in the world. Importantly, they predate the arrival of modern humans in Europe by at least 20,000 years, which suggests that they must be of Neandertal origin. The cave art comprises mainly red and black paintings and includes representations of various animals, linear signs, geometric shapes, hand stencils, and handprints. Thus, Neandertals possessed a much richer symbolic behavior than previously assumed.

Science, this issue p. 912