Early Human Art

More than 65,000 years ago, a Neanderthal painted in red ochre on the wall of a cave.

Paintings on a section of the La Pasiega cave wall, including a ladder shape composed of red horizontal and vertical lines.
(Photograph: P. Saura/PA)

Modern humans moved into Spain about 40,000 years ago, replacing Neanderthals who were there 120,000 years ago. In Science magazine last week, scientists at Southampton, Durham and Leipzig describe and date calcite crystals that had grown on top of the pictures.

 

A drawing of the red ladder symbol from the La Pasiega cave. Dating shows it has a minimum age of 64,000 years but it is unclear if the animals and other symbols were painted later.
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Graffiti from the La Pasiega cave. Dating shows it has a minimum age of 64,000 years but it is unclear if the animals and other symbols were painted later. (Illustration: Breuil et al)

 

In a second paper, published in Science Advances, D. Hoffman et al describe dyed and decorated seashells found in a cave in southeast Spain. They were made by Neanderthals 115,000 years ago.