The oldest-known cave paintings were made by the Neanderthals

  • According to the recent research report, published in the Science journal, the world’s oldest known cave paintings were made by Neanderthals, not by modern humans. 
  • Their study is based on cave arts found in Spain, which suggest that Homosapiens extinct cousins were not so uncultured as thought. 
  • These early cave arts were found at La Pasiega, Maltravieso and Ardales that includes lines, dots, discs and hand stencils. 
  • These cave arts dated to more than 64,800 years ago or 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe from Africa.
  • The researcher, associated with the study says that the cave art is much older than previously thought and provides the strongest evidence yet that Neanderthals had the cognitive capacity to understand symbolic representation, a central pillar of human culture.
  • Alistair Pike, professor of archaeological sciences at the University of Southampton, who co-led the study said that painting is something that has always been seen as a very human activity, so if Neanderthals are doing it they are being just like us.
  • According to the Science magazine, ‘until now, the oldest known cave art was roughly 40,000 years old — stenciled hands and animals in an Indonesian site that was dated in 2014, and discs and hand stencils from a cave in Cantabria, Spain, that were found in 2012.’

Who were Neanderthals?

  • One Human evolution theory says that, Neanderthals, Denisovans, and all modern humans are descended from the ancient human Homo heidelbergensis. 
  • Between 500,000 to 600,000 years ago, one  group of H. heidelbergensis left Africa and then splited in two further branches. One branch, that ventured northwestward into West Asia and Europe, bacame the Neanderthals whereas the other ventured into the east and were called Denisovans. 
  • By 250,000 years ago H. heidelbergensis in Africa had become Homo sapiens, the modern human. About 70,000 year ago the left Africa and expanded into Eurasia. 
  • During their expansion they were encountered their ancient cousins and mated together. In this process a small amount of Neanderthal DNA was introduced into the modern human gene pool.
  • An expereiment shows that most Europeans and Asians have approximately two percent Neanderthal DNA. However indigenous sub-Saharan Africans have none, or very little Neanderthal DNA because their ancestors did not migrate through Eurasia. 

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