Neanderthals may have been closer to prehistoric man than previously believed, cave paintings in Spain show, revealing that the species also had a need to create art, scientists said Sunday.
An ocher pigment was found on stalagmites in the Ardales Cave, near Malaga in southern Spain. It was used by Neanderthals about 65,000 years ago, making them perhaps the first artists on Earth, according to a paper published in the scientific journal PNAS. Modern man did not yet exist at that time.
The new discoveries are further evidence that Neanderthals, which became extinct about 40,000 years ago, were not unsophisticated relatives of Homo sapiens, as they have long been portrayed.
Pigments have been used in the cave for various periods, between 15,000 and 20,000 years ago, according to research that denies an earlier claim that they were the result of a natural oxidation process.
Joao Zilhao, one of the authors of the study, said that Neanderthals put ocher on the stalagmites, probably as part of a ritual, according to Hina.
The importance of this discovery is that it changes our attitude toward Neanderthals. They were closer to today’s people. Recent research shows that they loved objects and bred with humans, and now, like us, they painted in caves, Zilhao said.
The paintings on the walls of prehistoric people, such as those in the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave in France, are more than 30,000 years old.