Oldest confirmed cave art is a single red dot
2012 06 15
By Michael Marshall NewScientist.com
As cave art goes, it doesn’t look like much: a single red dot, hidden among a scatter of handprints and drawings of animals on the wall of El Castillo cave in northern Spain.
But this red dot is at least 40,800 years old, making it the oldest known piece of cave art in Europe. At that time modern humans had only just migrated out of Africa, raising a tantalising possibility: that the dot was drawn by a Neanderthal. If that’s the case, our extinct cousins may have had the rudiments of written language.
A hand stencil in El Castillo cave, Spain, has been dated to earlier than 37,300 years ago and a red dot to earlier than 40,600 years ago, making them the oldest cave paintings in Europe (Image: Pedro Saura)
While cave art is common throughout western Europe, the oldest dated examples are those in Chauvet cave in France, which have controversially been dated to between 35,000 and 30,000 years ago.
But many other pieces of cave art have never been dated. Standard radiocarbon dating only works when paintings were made using organic material like charcoal. Anything drawn with minerals like ochre, or just carved into the wall, can not be carbon dated.
Now, Alistair Pike of the University of Bristol, UK, and colleagues have come up with a partial solution that will put a minimum age on some previously un-datable paintings.
As water seeps through rock and dribbles over the cave surface, it leaves behind a thin layer of calcite. This contains radioactive uranium, which slowly decays into thorium at a known rate.
So, by measuring how much uranium has decayed into thorium, Pike figured he could determine the age of the calcite layer.
If the calcite overlays a painting, it will provide a minimum age for that art.
Although dramatic drawings of large animals tend to be the focus of attention, most cave art consists of simple symbols like the ones Pike studied. Nowell and her colleague Genevieve von Petzinger have found the same symbols drawn all over the world, so they may represent an early form of written language. Could this mean Neanderthals were able to write? Only the discovery of similar, but older symbols will say for sure.
Read the full article at: newscientist.com
The Caveman Diet: Grain Free, Disease Free
Astonishing cave has inspired Celtic legends and modern art
Cave painters were realists, DNA study finds
Ancient art studio found in African cave
Cave of Forgotten Dreams - 30,000 Year Old Paleolithic Art in 3D
Female Genitalia Carvings Are Europe’s Oldest Rock Art
Latest News from our Front Page
Nelson Mandela Family Finally Gives Up Charade and Admits Mandela Dead
2013 12 12
Funeral was planned a year ago
The Nelson Mandela family has finally given up their charade and admitted that Nelson Mandela is dead by announcing today that the former leader of South Africa is no longer with us.
The charade began in June of 2013, and Guardian Express has maintained Mandela has been deceased since we were informed of his passing in ...
Scientists Identify a Piece of the Planet Mercury for the First Time in Human History
2013 12 12
Talk about a precious stone — the largest piece of the only known meteorite from the planet Mercury has found its way to Yale, where it is now on display at the Peabody Museum of Natural History.
Known as NWA 7325, the fist-size, greenish space rock is a rarity among rarities: there just aren’t many verified planetary meteorites. Scientists know ...
US general who opened Guantanamo prison says shut it down
2013 12 12
The US general who opened the notorious US-run Guantanamo prison says it was a mistake and it should be shut down because the prison complex "validates every negative perception of the United States."
"In retrospect, the entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong," Marine Major General Michael Lehnert wrote in the Detroit Free Press on Thursday.
Lehnert was the first commander of ...
BioSuit: The Future of Space Gear
2013 12 12
New materials and designs could allow outer-space travelers to move more freely.
One day, moving around in outer space—and walking on Mars—could become a whole lot more comfortable for astronauts, thanks to the innovative techniques being developed by an aeronautics professor at MIT.
“The BioSuit—the one that gets a lot of media coverage—is a concept no one has seen before, and we ...
Cassini spies mysterious object named ’Peggy’ at edge of Saturn’s rings
2013 12 12
Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft has spotted an object located right at the edge of Saturn’s A ring that is confounding scientists. Its name? Peggy.
This strange something was spotted by accident on 15 April when Cassini’s cameras were aimed at a tiny moon named Prometheus that orbits just inside another of Saturn’s rings. A member of the mission’s imaging team, astronomer Carl ...
|More News » |