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Earth Science

Did Neandertals Paint Early Cave Art? 126

Posted by timothy
from the everyone's-a-critic dept.
sciencehabit writes "Dating experts working in Spain, using a technique relatively new to archaeology, have pushed dates for the earliest cave art back some 4000 years to at least 41,000 years ago, raising the possibility that the artists were Neandertals rather than modern humans. And a few researchers say that the study argues for the slow development of artistic skill over tens of thousands of years — not a swift acquisition of talent, as some had argued."
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Did Neandertals Paint Early Cave Art?

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  • mdash (Score:2, Funny)

    by jamesh (87723)

    And a few researchers say that the study argues for the slow development of artistic skill over tens of thousands of years mdash; not a swift acquisition of talent, as some had argued.

    It may now be considered proper to spell and pronounce Neandertal with a 't' not a 'th' sound, but 'mdash' is still normally written as '—'.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ellipsis that apostrophe s some editing comma slash dot period

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        TWENTY DASH SEVEN DASH CHARACTERS OUGHT TO BE ENOUGH FOR ANYONE STOP

        Now to avoid the lameness filter comma I apostrophe m going to have to say something productive mdash or at least make a more extended version of the parent apostrophe s joke stop carriage return Nope nothing productive comes to mind stop
      • by retchdog (1319261)

        slashdot can't display a proper ellipsis, just try using … in a comment.

    • Re:mdash (Score:5, Funny)

      by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @01:19AM (#40349411)

      It may now be considered proper to spell and pronounce Neandertal with a 't' not a 'th' sound, but 'mdash' is still normally written as 'â"'.

      Us Neandertal autor is are offended by your racial oppression of our linguistic atred of the 8t letter of the alpabet.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Us Neandertal autor is are offended by your racial oppression of our linguistic atred of the 8t letter of t h e alpabet.

        Alphabet Humour Fail !!

    • Re:mdash (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 17, 2012 @03:14AM (#40349825)

      Neandertal is a valley close to Düsseldorf, Germany. In 1901, an orthographic reform changed the name from Neanderthal to Neandertal ("Tal" is German for "valley"). The Neanderthal man however had been discovered long before and keeps his original name with the "th".

      • Re:mdash (Score:5, Informative)

        by zephvark (1812804) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @06:36AM (#40350449)
        It may be appropriate to note that Germans typically don't pronounce "th" as Americans do. It's like "we" versus "whee", the "h" part is an aspiration mark. A common spelling error, for English-speaking Germans, is to put a "th" in where a "t" sound belongs. Neanderthal has always been pronounced Neandertal, they just changed the spelling.
        • Re:mdash (Score:5, Informative)

          by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @01:25PM (#40352595)
          Ehem, sorry, as a native German speaker I feel the need to add that the h in "th" is not an aspiration marker. Phonetically, there is no difference between"t" and "th" in German. It's just a relic of orthography. Both are pronounced as unvoiced alveolar plosive /t/.
    • by jd (1658)

      Mdash may be the name of the artist.

    • by Grayhand (2610049)

      And a few researchers say that the study argues for the slow development of artistic skill over tens of thousands of years mdash; not a swift acquisition of talent, as some had argued.

      It may now be considered proper to spell and pronounce Neandertal with a 't' not a 'th' sound, but 'mdash' is still normally written as '—'.

      They may be able to paint but they can't spell for shit.

  • Possibly somewhat impossible to determine, but it should precipitate further inquiry into potential points of cultural exchange between species.

    Perhaps neanderthals are the key to making Linux the most popular desktop... now we'll never know.

  • by mister2au (1707664) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @01:19AM (#40349407)

    There have been vandals as long as there have been things to vandalise ...

    Neanderthals lived in social groups so there were Neanderthal kids being dragged around by Neanderthal parents and this was before the internet and even before TV ... you work it out - bored kids + pristine cave walls !

  • Over hyped (Score:3, Interesting)

    by micheas (231635) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @01:29AM (#40349433) Homepage Journal

    The artwork dates to when neanderthals were in Europe, but not before the earliest evidence of homo sapiens in Europe.

    It seems unlikely that the art was done by neanderthals, and if it was it was probably done by neanderthals imitating homo sapiens. (there is a reason that "to ape' means to copy.

    I make this assumption based on the fact that cave art seems to show up with other evince of homo sapiens, but there have been no finds of cave art that are dated earlier than any evidence of humans.

    Also, the theory of complexity of art is obviously pulled out of said scientists arses . Scientists that claim that an drawing of a circle as art predates recognizable drawings of the physical world are obviously more recent need to take a look at the verifiable date of the Mona Lisa, and any single geometric shape at a MOMA and explain why their hypothosis that directly contradicts verifiable data about artwork should be viewed as anything other than B.S.

    • Re:Over hyped (Score:5, Interesting)

      by arth1 (260657) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @02:09AM (#40349543) Homepage Journal

      The artwork dates to when neanderthals were in Europe, but not before the earliest evidence of homo sapiens in Europe.

      It seems unlikely that the art was done by neanderthals, and if it was it was probably done by neanderthals imitating homo sapiens. (there is a reason that "to ape' means to copy.

      I make this assumption based on the fact that cave art seems to show up with other evince of homo sapiens, but there have been no finds of cave art that are dated earlier than any evidence of humans.

      You come across as very prejudiced and biased - and also wrong.
      TFA states that this happened at least 41,000 years ago, and the oldest human (Homo Sapiens Sapiens) remains found in Europe is no more than 36,000 years old.

      Another issue is that you can't apply a dualistic "either/or" - humans of European heritage have from 1-4% Neanderthal DNA. While this isn't a significant portion, it does show that interbreeding was possible and happened, and there must have been fertile individuals who were 50% of each.
      But based solely on the age, the evidence points more towards Neanderthals than modern man.

      • Re:Over hyped (Score:5, Informative)

        by lanswitch (705539) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @06:26AM (#40350431)

        The oldest evidence of modern humans in Europe is over 43.000, not 36.000 years old. There is no evidence that the Neandertal was responsible for the Aurigniac, but a lot of evidence that connects the Aurigniac with modern humans.

        http://dienekes.blogspot.nl/2012/05/43000-year-old-aurignacian-in-swabian.html [blogspot.nl]

        • by arth1 (260657)

          What evidence? What I see in that article is speculation and begging the question by presuming that a set of infant teeth is from h. s. sapiens and then using that as evidence for h. s. sapiens were present at that time.

          Wikipedia has this (I know better than to take Wikipedia as gospel, but they have some references too):

          "There is no longer certainty regarding the identity of the humans who produced the Aurignacian culture, even though the presumed westward spread of anatomically modern humans (AMHs) acros

      • by l00sr (266426)

        If Neanderthals and humans could mate and have fertile offspring, then why aren't they considered the same species?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          If Neanderthals and humans could mate and have fertile offspring, then why aren't they considered the same species?

          Because nobody other than high school biology teachers uses that definition of species since the discovery of ring species.

        • Re:Over hyped (Score:5, Informative)

          by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @12:59PM (#40352435) Homepage

          If Neanderthals and humans could mate and have fertile offspring, then why aren't they considered the same species?

          Because 'species' is a loaded word.

          The species problem [wikipedia.org]

          tl;dr - Complicated natural phenomena are hard to reduce to a single word.

        • by the phantom (107624) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @01:22PM (#40352563) Homepage
          By many, they are considered the same species. That is why you will see some people refer to modern humans as Homo sapiens sapiens, and Neanderthals as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.
          • by arth1 (260657)

            By many, they are considered the same species. That is why you will see some people refer to modern humans as Homo sapiens sapiens, and Neanderthals as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.

            When we can consider Chihuahuas, Old English Sheepdogs and Irish Wolfhounds the same species, I certainly don't see why we can't consider Neanderthals human too.

            • we can consider Chihuahuas, Old English Sheepdogs and Irish Wolfhounds the same species

              All dogs and wolves are, by some definitions at least, considered the same species because they can collaborate in producing a fertile descendant. Chihuahas can't mate with Great Danes, but the Chihuaha can mate with a smallish dog, which mates with a medium-sized dog, which mates with a largish dog, which mates with a Great Dane, and that's enough to make them the same species.

              If we killed all the dogs in the world except the Chihuaha and the Great Dane, the survivors would be two separate species. In othe

              • by flirno (945854)

                Not entirely true about the dogs.

                There is an obvious awkward/physical problem with having a Chihuaha having Great Dane puppies but not the other way around. A Great Dane could have Chihuaha puppies without issue after fertilization.

                Natural selection would have it sort out one way or the other in the wild.

          • by RockDoctor (15477)

            That is why you will see some people refer to modern humans as Homo sapiens sapiens, and Neanderthals as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.

            From the other end of the same (zoom) telescope, the term "Anatomically Modern Human" is used a lot, particularly in areas where the "modern/ Neanderthal" dichotomy is not established. As a descriptive term, it's much less loaded than implying species membership, breeding isolation and a whole host of other criteria. And if your AMH skeleton is later found to have (say) 40%

    • Yes, the art for the most part is perfect and done in such a way as to make the animals appear animated when moving through the cave with a torch. There are no mess-ups, such as an image that is started and then erased. The pictures were created in one go by someone who knew exactly what they were doing. It is no more primitive than a comic book drawing.

  • by SlithyMagister (822218) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @02:02AM (#40349521)
    Then get them back there RIGHT NOW and make them clean it up.
  • Neanderthals were in Europe by themselves for hundreds of thousands of years without making caving paintings. We're to suppose that they happened to pick up the habit just when modern humans moved into the area. That would be a massive coincidence. It's possible, but unlikely.

    • Um, it looks like they may have started making cave paintings about 5000 years before modern humans moved into the area.

      I know that at a distance 5000 years may not seem like much, but in fact a lot can happen in 5000 years.

      • Re:Probably not (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jd (1658) <imipak@noSPam.yahoo.com> on Sunday June 17, 2012 @04:57AM (#40350145) Homepage Journal

        There is also very little in common between the earliest cave art attributed to Homo Sapiens and any of the cave art attributed to Neanderthals - very different styles, very different formats, very different in nature all round.

        The paintings in France also include proto-writing next to the paintings, but no such symbols exist here.

        Most important of all, the paintings attributed to Neanderthals include fish that Neanderthals ate at the time and Homo Sapiens did not.

        So if Neanderthals are present and Homo Sapiens are not, we've opportunity taken care of.
        Neanderthals had been mucking around with ochre at the time, Homo Sapiens didn't utilize it for a long time after, so that's means.
        The pictures show Neanderthal food not Homo Sapien food, which gives motive.
        No proto-writing and no utilization of the 3D nature of the rock surface means no continuity with the French cave paintings, so Homo Sapiens are sans continuity.

        I'd say that nails it.

        • The cave paintings in France clearly showed artistic ability, even genius. These Neanderthal artifacts, though, obviously involve nothing more than picking up a spray can and spraying it around his hand. If you doubt me when I say that isn't art, just try selling something like that at Southeby's. ... Never mind.
          • These Neanderthal artifacts, though, obviously involve nothing more than picking up a spray can and spraying it around his hand.

            And who made the spray can? Mr. Homo Sapiens? They didn't even have bronze yet - no way they're going to make a steel can.

            • by MickLinux (579158)
              That is part of the joke, but at that, it really may have been applied by a DeWalt airbrush. I also wanted to add in a different joke about early attempts at fingerprinting, and more successful examples at the Hoover building in DC. Maybe that would have been better.
          • by jd (1658) <imipak@noSPam.yahoo.com> on Monday June 18, 2012 @06:20AM (#40357643) Homepage Journal

            The handprints, perhaps, but the pictures of fish were somewhat more stylized and were definitely not stencil-based. I'd consider those abstractions and therefore art at its most simplistic. Much more crucially, though, it's stuff with a totally different intent.

            If you're saying the Neanderthal pictures were extremely simplistic and lacked any obvious "thought"* - they were depictions at a very mechanical level - then I'd totally agree. If you're saying the French pictures showed enormous thought and mindfulness - even in the kiddy training area (there was a section set aside to train kids on painting) - then again I'd totally agree. There was an incredible level of sentience involved.

            If we go apples-to-apples, there were sections of the French caves that had hand paintings. But they showed awareness and no small amount of ingenuity. Several would have required platforms to be set up, for example. Not easy in such a confined space.

            And, yes, if IQ is generalized as the ration of what a person can think/know vs what you'd expect of them, we can get a feel for their IQ. I'd consider proto-flipbook animation, haziness to depict motion, and relief to convey stereoscopic images to be well above the 48% above the average person of the time, and an IQ of 148 is all MENSA requires. So if you want to call the French painters geniuses I'd have to agree.

            *Given that Neanderthals diverged from homo sapiens so far back, it is possible that their thought processes are too alien for modern humans to comprehend, that we're looking for the wrong signals, the wrong visual cues. It is possible. Unlikely, though, but possible. Doesn't really alter the conclusion, though, which is that it wasn't a Homo Sapien mindset. Whatever it was or wasn't, it wasn't that. This raises an intriguing side-question, though - how WOULD we recognize art from an alien mind?

      • Where did you get the 5,000 year figure? The article itself cites clear evidence of human habitation in Europe 41,600 years ago, which is before the earliest painting's date of 40,800 years ago. There are sites even earlier than that. Plus, there is a fundamental problem in that preservation events are rare, so humans were no doubt in the area long before we'd ever find evidence of them.

        Meanwhile, Neanderthals had been around in Europe for 300,000 years. Even if your number were right, for 98.3% of their ex

    • just pause for a moment and consider the possibilities.

    • Until homo sapiens moved in, there was nobody willing to buy their art. Who knows? Given enough time, they might have realized that the stupid humans will even pay good money for 'art' painted by chips. Or Adam Sandler movies.
  • In the mid-1950s abstract expressionism [metmuseum.org] was the rage. Congo [treehugger.com] was a successful artist. Here are some of his paintings [artistsezine.com]. Some sold for about $30,000. Most impressive, given Congo was a chimpanzee. It’s not surprising if Neanderthals did early cave art, cave art surpassing its contemporary human art. After all Congo has already established, artistic talent isn’t restricted to Homo sapiens sapiens [wadsworth.com].
    • by Osgeld (1900440) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @04:14AM (#40349995)

      theres a bit of difference tween a chimp ploping paint strokes in a semi random fashion to make modern "art" and the cave paintings clearly depicting characters doing specific actions. When Congo starts drawing his family actively hunting a beast and roasting it over a fire then I will concede your argument.

      • by kstahmer (134975)
        Congo’s plopped semi random fashioned paint stokes sold for $30,000 in the mid-1950s. That’s indubitable financial success. As to whether Congo’s art constitutes ‘genuine’ art, that’s a matter of idiosyncrasy, usually left to art critics, not /. posters. Human hubris is seductive. We overestimate our own talents, while underestimating the talents of other species.
        • Goes to show the power of markets when it comes to putting a value on things. Laughable.
      • by MickLinux (579158)
        I was under the impression that Congo's favorite foods included bamboo stands and the raw fruits and vegetables at lunchtime. I'd advise you to take another look at those paintings. "Bold circular loop" perhaps would be better named Ripe banana and green Pepper Still Life.
  • well, IMO that makes since, trying to eat while not being eaten kind of trumps cave art in my book of priorities in the ages before cultivation. Of course that all depends on the definition of swift ... thats a bit open ended considering the time scales involved. IE a handful of generations, or a handful of centuries?

  • Either you have something to say or you don't. "Could it be?" articles instantly give the impression that your on the same ground as "Did aliens build the pyramids?" which will be followed (after an hour of time wasting) with "we may never know."

  • but they did do some cave hentai tentacle drawings
  • by CaptainOfSpray (1229754) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @05:43AM (#40350295)
    Can they fix us up with some cute Neandert(h)al girls? If not, they ain't no experts.
  • Irrelevant (Score:5, Funny)

    by toriver (11308) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @05:56AM (#40350345)

    The cave paintings are long out of copyright, and as we all know, only works under copyright hold any value.

    Yours,
    The entertainment industry organizations.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    For sure they did! Microsoft used a time machine to get a neanderthal for designing metro!
    Finally NT=Neanderthal Technology becomes true!

  • This supposed stone age art work is a fake, made by local land owners to make some tourist euros ;) Not sure how they date this but am guessing its unreliable.
    • by mhajicek (1582795)
      First, you draw a conclusion, then you deride any evidence that contradicts your conclusion. You sound like a young-Earth creationist.
  • Look there is no other evidence of Neanderthals doing such paintings elsewhere, there is no record of the development of such techniques in Neanderthal artefacts. Their tool kit had not changed for hundreds of thousands of years. Under these circumstances, we need to independently confirm the dating techniques are good and reliable. Otherwise it would end up as an egg in their faces like the claim of faster than light travel reported last year. It turned out to be clock calibration issue. Go through the dat
    • by RockDoctor (15477)
      The dating technique (uranium series dating) is good. Very solid ; very appropriate for the age range under consideration (where carbon-14 dating is getting towards it's inherent limits).

      As always with real-world samples, the bigger question is whether you've got an appropriate sample. In this case, some of the paintings have a partial overgrowth of calcium carbonate (which will pick up some uranium during deposition, then hopefully "close" as a system). This is the material that you sample, and it gives y

  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @09:43AM (#40351089)
    Neanderthals were known for shaping stone artwork, the neanderthal Venus are quite well known, so there's no reason to think they lacked the ability to paint. Developmentally Neanderthals were very close to modern humans. There is debate about some problem solving and complex tool making but in many ways they were hard to separate from humans. They even developed music and the flute.
  • So who's to say that the only preserved drawings we discovered were from a Master Artist of the time? What if it's the random scribblings of a child or not-to-artistic adult even (If you looked at my wall scrawlings, absent carbon dating, you would also think they were created by a less-evolved species)
  • Who says it's 'Art'? - might be an image of 'the hand that has killed', and the blobs might be notches on the club, all there for the cave-goblins to approve.
  • I find this unlikely. There is a clear history of all social intelligence and knowledge coming from Mesopotamia. Before that we knew nothing. Knowledge is never killed and we would never kill it on pupose. What's next? Someone will tell us the great pyramid is older then 4500 years and that math constants such as Phi and Pi are much older then our history records. Ludicrous. Humans have never been more intelligent then we are today and that process is clearly linear. Most of our knownledge stems from around

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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