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





Related Articles
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

Sand Pirates: ISIS Are America’s 21st Century Terrorist Privateers
2014 11 01
What is ISIS? If you believe govt and corporate propaganda, you still think that ISIS is a grassroots Islamic ideological movement ¨C and with no connection to intelligence agencies like America¡¯s CIA, Britain¡¯s MI6, Turkish (NATO) intelligence, Saudi intelligence, Israeli intelligence, or Pakistan¡¯s ISI. The reality of ISIS is something altogether different¡­ On closer inspection, these marauding paramilitary ISIS gangs are nothing ...
Ancient Stone Circles in Mideast Baffle Archaeologists
2014 11 01
Huge stone circles in the Middle East have been imaged from above, revealing details of structures that have been shrouded in mystery for decades. The Big Circle called J1 is about 390 meters (1,280 feet) in diameter, with an open area created by bulldozing in its interior. Credit: David L. Kennedy, copyright is retained by the Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology ...
Sweden Recognizes Palestinian State; Israel Upset
2014 10 31
Sweden on Thursday became the biggest Western European country to recognize a Palestinian state, prompting a strong protest from Israel, which swiftly withdrew its ambassador from Stockholm. The move by Sweden’s new left-leaning government reflects growing international impatience with Israel’s nearly half-century control of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and its blockade of the Gaza Strip. It also comes during increased ...
Fed-Backed Study: How to Brainwash Public into Fearing “Climate Change” Like Ebola
2014 10 31
$84K study seeks ways to make public fear "climate change and overpopulation" The National Science Foundation is funding a study to determine how to brainwash the public into fearing “climate change and overpopulation” as if they were Ebola. The NSF awarded an $84,000 grant to researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo yesterday to figure out how to make ...
Brain decoder can eavesdrop on your inner voice
2014 10 31
As you read this, your neurons are firing – that brain activity can now be decoded to reveal the silent words in your head TALKING to yourself used to be a strictly private pastime. That’s no longer the case – researchers have eavesdropped on our internal monologue for the first time. The achievement is a step towards helping people who cannot ...
More News »