Markings on a French cave wall have been identified as the oldest known engravings made by Neanderthals, at least 57,000 years ago.
The marks on the wall of La Roche-Cotard cave in the Centre-Val de Loire are interpreted as finger-flutings, marks made by human hands.
Research in recent decades has revealed much about the cultural complexity of Neanderthals.
But relatively little is known about their symbolic or artistic expression.
Only a short list of symbolic productions are attributed to Neanderthals, and the interpretation of these is often the subject of debate.
For the new study, Dr. Jean-Claude Marquet and colleagues identified markings at La Roche-Cotard as the oldest known Neanderthal engravings.
The researchers made a plotting analysis and used photogrammetry to create 3D models of the markings, comparing them with known and experimental human markings.
Based on the shape, spacing, and arrangement of the engravings, the team concluded that they are “deliberate, organized and intentional” shapes created by Neanderthal hands.
The team also dated sediments, using state of the art optically-stimulated luminescence techniques, to determine that the cave became closed off by infilling sediment around 57,000 years ago, well before Homo sapiens became established in the region.
The researchers say that discovery, combined with the fact that stone tools within the cave are only Mousterian – a technology associated with Neanderthals, is “strong” evidence that the engravings are the work of Neanderthals.
“Because these are non-figurative symbols, the intent behind them is unclear. They are, however, of a similar age with cave engravings made by Homo sapiens in other parts of the world. This adds to a growing body of evidence that the behavior and activities of Neanderthals were similarly complex and diverse as those of our own ancestors,” Marquet of the University of Tours in France, said.
“Fifteen years after the resumption of excavations at the La Roche-Cotard site, the engravings have been dated to over 57,000 years ago and, thanks to stratigraphy, probably to around 75,000 years ago, making this the oldest decorated cave in France, if not Europe,” he said.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Rachmad Imam Tarecha and Joseph Hammond
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