Google+

Where Were You 40,000 Years Ago

Red disks, hand stencils and club-shaped drawings lining the walls of several Stone Age caves in Spain were painted so long ago that Neandertals might have been their makers, say researchers armed with a high-powered method for dating ancient stone.

Scientists have struggled for more than a century to determine the ages of Europe’s striking Stone Age cave paintings. A new rock-dating technique, which uses bits of mineralized stone to estimate minimum and maximum ages of ancient paintings, finds that European cave art started earlier than researchers have assumed — at least 40,800 years ago, say archaeologist Alistair Pike of the University of Bristol in England and his colleagues.

Pike’s team presents its findings in the June 15 Science.

Previous age estimates were based on stylistic comparisons of drawings in different caves and radiocarbon dates for ancient pigments containing charcoal or other organic material. That research indicated that people began creating cave paintings in Europe possibly 36,000 years ago. Some researchers suspect thatHomo sapiens made rapid advances in symbolic thinking around that time.

New evidence of European cave art’s early origin fits a scenario in which wall drawings and other symbolic behaviors extend far back in the Stone Age (SN: 8/13/11, p. 22). People may have begun cave painting either before or shortly after entering Europe as early as 45,000 years ago (SN Online: 11/2/11), Pike suggests. Or perhaps Neandertals that already inhabited Europe drew on cave walls before their evolutionary cousins arrived, he says.

“If cave painting started before the arrival of modern humans, it would mean that hand stencils on cave walls are outlines of Neandertals’ hands,” Pike says. “We will need to date more examples to see if this is the case.”

Neandertals died out around 30,000 years ago. Many cave paintings in the new study date to no more than 21,000 years ago, clearly marking them as creations of H. sapiens.

Only small pigment scrapings have been radiocarbon dated to reduce damage to Stone Age artworks. Such tiny samples magnify the distorting effects of contamination on radiocarbon age estimates. Scientists also can’t be sure that charcoal in ancient pigments isn’t considerably older than the rock art being dated.

For the new study, Pike’s team employed a technique called uranium-series dating to analyze thin mineral deposits that had formed over or under parts of 50 paintings and engravings in 11 Spanish caves. Uranium incorporated into the minerals at the time of formation decays into a form of radioactive thorium at a known rate, allowing researchers to calculate its age.

Uranium-series technology “is certainly our only hope at present for dating engravings and inorganic pigments,” says Paul Bahn, an independent archaeologist and cave-art investigator in Hull, England.

“Neandertals were capable of producing cave art, and these new dates make it probable that cave art does go back to the Neandertal period,” Bahn holds.

Data from Pike’s team show that cave art in Europe was created over a longer period than previously assumed, comments archaeologist Daniel Richter of the University of Bayreuth, Germany, a specialist in dating methods. Richter suspects that modern humans crafted these earliest cave paintings, because no evidence exists that Neandertals were involved.

Two dating studies at a German cave, one led by Richter and another by archaeologist Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford in England, place painted shapes, bone figurines and other artifacts often associated with modern humans at about 42,500 years ago. Those studies employed radiocarbon dating and a method to estimate the time since artifacts were exposed to a Stone Age fire, but not uranium-series dating.

“I think it is far more likely that all of the art at European sites was made by modern humans, although it’s possible that a Neandertal hand was involved,” Higham says.

Northern Spain’s earliest cave art consists of red dots, disks, lines and hand stencils, Pike says. Drawings of animals and mythical creatures in the region’s caves appear starting around 30,000 years ago, indicating that artistic styles became more complex over time.

Pike’s team identified Europe’s oldest known wall painting at El Castillo cave, where several chambers contain more than 100 illustrations. One of several large red disks dates to at least 40,800 years ago. A nearby hand stencil was made at least 37,300 years ago, the researchers say; dozens of other disks and hand stencils on the same wall probably come from the same period.

Artistic activity at El Castillo continued for nearly 20,000 years. A red disk in another chamber was painted between 36,000 and 34,100 years ago, and a black outline of an animal dates to at least 22,600 years ago.

A club-shaped symbol in a decorated chamber at Altamira cave dates to at least 35,600 years ago, about 10,000 years before previous estimates of when painting started at the site. Dates for other Altamira drawings suggest that the cave hosted ancient illustrators over a span of more than 20,000 years.

Source: Science News/ Bruce Bower

Photo: Courtesy of Pedro Saura

Entertainment

Mom Enlists Female Assistance Raising Son in Nostalgic Ensemble Drama

  20th Century Women Film Review by Kam Williams Mom Enlists Female Assistance Raising Son in Nostalgic Ensemble Drama Written and directed by Mike Mills (Beginners), 20th Century Women is an inter-generational coming-of-age tale set in Santa Barbara, California in 1979. The nostalgic ensemble drama revolves around the efforts of a neurotic single-mom (Annette Bening) to parent a naive 15 year-old (Lucas Jade Zumann) in dire need of a … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Books

Concerned Father Creates Children’s Book Series To Help Make Learning About Valuable Black History Information Fun Again

  Concerned Father Creates Children's Book Series To Help Make Learning About Valuable Black History Information Fun Again   Orlando, FL (January 16, 2017) – EOTO Books & Publishing announced today the immediate release of “The Christopher OluFela Series of Books for Kids” written by father and creative children’s picture book author Lee Chavous. The books take a unique approach to inform young readers of a rich African American … [Read More its Good for You...]

Art

The Day After the Day Of

  The Day After the Day Of by Paul Ilechko   The sky sheds its tears. This morning is the morning of the day after. The day of mourning, the day after the day of.  I beseech the sky to shed tears in order to wash away the tears on my face.   This is the first day of the time after. This is the beginning of a new time, the days of pain, the days of sorrow. We are in mourning. The sky looks down and sheds its tears for … [Read More its Good For You...]

Real Estate

History Being Sold to the Highest Bidder

  History Being Sold to the Highest Bidder by Amy Lignor   For the longest time, scientists and archaeologists have been confused and bemused by various discoveries they’ve unearthed that offer little or no explanation as to the who, what, and why of the people who created these things or left them behind. Even now, in 2017, there are discoveries being studied; stories that were once legends now have actual bits of proof being found that … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Lifestyle

The Dreams from Obama’s America

  The Dreams from Obama's America Dinesh Sharma Source: Dinesh Sharma Obama will be remembered as one of the greatest political orators of our times. His soaring rhetoric that swooned the audience in 2004 in Boston (There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.[1]), not too far from where the patriots fired the opening salvo of the American Revolution, was on … [Read More its Good for You...]

Outdoors

Carolina Skiff at Miami’s Favorite Boat Show

  Carolina Skiff at Miami's Favorite Boat Show By Craig Lamb You might say “new” is a reoccurring theme of Miami’s favorite boat show coming up soon. A new location with hundreds of new boats, including never-before-seen models being debuted by Carolina Skiff, is a great way to kick off the season. Few boat shows offer buyers the chance to see new boats where they ultimately belong—floating on the water in a real time setting. You can … [Read More its Good for You...]

Sports

Can Troy Aikman Win MVP?

  Can Troy Aikman Win MVP? by Amy Lignor   What a strange title for an article, aye? Of course the ‘old man’ of the Dallas Cowboys can’t win MVP. Troy Aikman was an elite QB, with three Super Bowl rings to prove that fact. However, Aikman hasn’t actually suited-up since leaving behind his Cowboys uniform in 2001. The number one overall draft pick in 1989, Aikman was the MVP of Super Bowl XXVII, and was elected to the Pro Football … [Read More its Good for You...]

Business

Spotlight on Africa

  Spotlight on Africa by Amy Lignor   As the year winds down and comes to a close, it is Africa that is receiving some headlines that call for many changes and improvements to be made in the coming years. It was Ambassador Amina Mohamed (Nairobi, Kenya) that spoke recently about the African Union Commission (AUC) and how the group must provide leadership in the coming years. After all, the nation of Africa is, in truth, the cradle … [Read More its Good for You...]

Travel

The Grandest New Year’s Celebrations Around the World

    The Grandest New Year’s Celebrations Around the World by Amy Lignor   Oh, yes…there are many, many places to travel in order to ring in that New Year in style. Some people have already stated that they see 2017 becoming one of the ‘best of the best’ years the world has ever seen – from technology to business to education to even “going greener” – heck, green has even been chosen as the top color of 2017. But where should you … [Read More its Good for You...]

Green Living

After 89 Years This “Mouse” Still Works Overtime

  After 89 Years This “Mouse” Still Works Overtime by Amy Lignor   For those who are unaware, Mickey Mouse is one year away from turning 90 years of age. Created in 1928 by the lovable Walt Disney, this character continues to bring happiness and joy to kids and families all around the world. Through depressions, national tragedies, and more drama than anyone can name, Mickey Mouse and the Walt Disney Company survived and is still, to … [Read More its Good for You...]