June 14, 2012

Dating of Paleolithic art from Spain

I see absolutely no reason to hypothesize that Neandertals had anything to do with this art, given the clear evidence for an earlier presence of AMH in Europe before this time. Indeed, the latest evidence may suggest that not even all modern humans who entered Europe had highly developed art, and indeed such art is lacking in many contexts associated with modern humans outside Europe. In short, rather than hypothesize that art was a pastime of not only modern humans, but also Neandertals, we must rather accept the most plausible idea that art was a cultural innovation that began with a subset of anatomically modern humans.

Science 15 June 2012: Vol. 336 no. 6087 pp. 1409-1413 DOI: 10.1126/science.1219957

U-Series Dating of Paleolithic Art in 11 Caves in Spain

A. W. G. Pike et al.

Paleolithic cave art is an exceptional archive of early human symbolic behavior, but because obtaining reliable dates has been difficult, its chronology is still poorly understood after more than a century of study. We present uranium-series disequilibrium dates of calcite deposits overlying or underlying art found in 11 caves, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites of Altamira, El Castillo, and Tito Bustillo, Spain. The results demonstrate that the tradition of decorating caves extends back at least to the Early Aurignacian period, with minimum ages of 40.8 thousand years for a red disk, 37.3 thousand years for a hand stencil, and 35.6 thousand years for a claviform-like symbol. These minimum ages reveal either that cave art was a part of the cultural repertoire of the first anatomically modern humans in Europe or that perhaps Neandertals also engaged in painting caves.



matt said...

Not to mention that "Neandertals" may well have had a modicum of AMH dna as opposed to the theory that some AMH have inherited Neandertal dna.

eurologist said...

Strange to invoke Neanderthals in this context. The first art appears exactly when modern humans enter Europe. Neanderthals were there hundreds of thousands of years prior, and nothing happened.

Nathan said...

The Iberian Penninsula was the last refuge for Neanderthals so that plays a big part into considering Neanderthal authorship of the art.

terryt said...

"with minimum ages of 40.8 thousand years for a red disk"

That is the main reason for the suggestion of Neanderthal involvement evidently. If the art is at all older it would imply Neanderthal. However I agree it is most likely modern human art.

Ranji said...

If art is characteristic of a sub-set of AMH then presumably the ancestors of Australian Aborigines were part of that sub-set, considering the discovery of dated art from 28,000 years ago:


desrosiersj said...

I thought the arguement is that the uranium dating gives a minimum age for the art in question. That means modern humans had a relativel short time to appear and create art. It does lead one to wonder about Neandertal art, but there is no proof. There is a 250000 year history of Neandertal art in other contexts. The most interesting thing to me is the new dates and the technique.