Debate on age of recently discovered Spanish cave art

LAST UPDATED: 5 Jul, 2012 @ 10:26
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Debate on age of recently discovered Spanish cave art

By Eloise Horsfield

SCIENTISTS have discovered yet more Neanderthal cave art in northern Spain – which could rival the age of the seals painted in Nerja’s caves.

Fresh research has been carried out on 11 caves in Cantabria and Asturia, taking in the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Altamira, El Castillo and Tito Bustillo.

Using a new method that measures the radioactive decay of uranium traces in tiny stalactites that form on top of the paintings, circular scrawlings at El Castillo were found to be 40,800 years old.

Barcelona University Professor Joao Zilhao believes the artwork was painted by Neanderthals, but said more convincing proof is needed.

Neanderthals, who famously ate seals, roamed the earth until about 30,000 years ago before the arrival of humans from Africa.

“Until now our understanding of the age of cave art was sketchy at best,” said University of Sheffield specialist Dr Paul Pettitt.

“Now we have firmly extended the earliest age of European cave art back by several thousand years, to the last Neanderthals and earliest Homo sapiens.”

As reported in the Olive Press, in February specialists dropped an ‘academic bombshell’ after claiming paintings in Nerja caves could be 43,000 years old, but further research is needed to confirm it.

Previously it was thought the oldest known cave paintings in the world were those in Chauvet Cave in France, thought to be between 32,000 and 37,000 years old.

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