Did Neanderthals create Europe's first cave paintings?
New evidence that a series of cave paintings in Spain are thousands of years older than previously thought suggests that Neanderthals, not Homo sapiens, created the artwork.
(Page 3 of 3)
Paul Bahn, a British archaeologist not involved in the study, agreed that the dates are convincing.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Other researchers aren't as sure. The cave art falls into an era of overlap between humans and Neanderthals in Europe, said Chris Stringer, the research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum in London. Early modern human fossils and artifacts have been found in Britain as early as 41,000 years ago, and at the German musical instrument site as much as 43,000 years ago, Stringer, who wasn't involved in the current study, told LiveScience. That means the cave art isn't necessarily from a pre-human era.
"Modern humans are still the most likely candidates for this," he said.
The uranium-thorium dating method that sparked this debate is likely the method that will settle it. The team sampled only a tiny percentage of cave paintings, said study leader Alistair Pike, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. There are many more caves awaiting accurate dating.
"I think it's fairly a straightforward thing to prove if they were painted by Neanderthals," Pike said. "All we have to do is go back and date more of these samples and find a date that predates the arrival of modern humans in Europe."
- Image Gallery: Our Closest Human Ancestor
- Gallery: Europe's Oldest Rock Art
- Top 10 Things that Make Humans Special
Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.