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Neanderthal Art

February 27, 2018

Sophisticated cave art in Spain may be the work of Neanderthals.

Transcript

Panel 3 in Maltravieso Cave showing three hand stencils. One has been dated to at least 66,000 years ago and must have been made by a Neanderthal - color enhanced. (H. Collado)

Panel 3 in Maltravieso Cave showing three hand stencils. One has been dated to at least 66,000 years ago and must have been made by a Neanderthal – color enhanced. (H. Collado)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Were Neanderthals artistic? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Our extinct cousins, the Neanderthals, are often portrayed as dull and brutish. But two papers published in the journals Science and Science Advances suggest that some finely drawn cave paintings in Spain were actually the work of Neanderthals. University of Southampton archaeologist Alistair Pike describes them.

ALISTAIR PIKE (University of Southampton):

What we find here is not only just smearing pigments on the wall, but actually painting something that is symbolic, that represents something.

HIRSHON:

His team and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute found that the paintings, as well as some decorated seashells, were produced tens of thousands of years before modern humans reached the area. If Neanderthals were indeed the artists, they were capable of symbolic thinking — making them much more like our modern human ancestors than was thought. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon