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

Abstract

The extent and nature of symbolic behavior among Neandertals are obscure. Although evidence for Neandertal body ornamentation has been proposed, all cave painting has been attributed to modern humans. Here we present dating results for three sites in Spain that show that cave art emerged in Iberia substantially earlier than previously thought. Uranium-thorium (U-Th) dates on carbonate crusts overlying paintings provide minimum ages for a red linear motif in La Pasiega (Cantabria), a hand stencil in Maltravieso (Extremadura), and red-painted speleothems in Ardales (Andalucía). Collectively, these results show that cave art in Iberia is older than 64.8 thousand years (ka). This cave art is the earliest dated so far and predates, by at least 20 ka, the arrival of modern humans in Europe, which implies Neandertal authorship.

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Hoffmann, D., Standish, C., García-Diez, M., Pettitt, P., Milton, J., Zilhão, J., Alcolea-González, J., Cantalejo-Duarte, P., Collado, H., Balbín, R., Lorblanchet, M., Ramos-Muñoz, J., Weniger, G., Pike, A. (2018): U-Th dating of carbonate crusts reveals Neandertal origin of Iberian cave art. – In: Science, Vol. 359, p: 912-915, DOI: DOI: 10.1126/science.aap7778

Authors Hoffmann, D.L. and Standish, C.D. and García-Diez, M. and Pettitt, P.B. and Milton, J.A. and Zilhão, J. and Alcolea-González, J.J. and Cantalejo-Duarte, P. and Collado, H. and Balbín, R. de and Lorblanchet, M. and Ramos-Muñoz, J. and Weniger, Gerd-Christian and Pike, A.W.G.
Type article
Title U-Th dating of carbonate crusts reveals Neandertal origin of Iberian cave art
DOI DOI: 10.1126/science.aap7778
Journal Science
Year 2018
Volume 359
Pages 912-915
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