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Finger marks on cave walls represent some of the earliest forms of Neanderthal art

By: April Carson



Around 57,000 years ago, it is believed that Neanderthals may have created engravings on the walls of a cave in France. These markings represent some of the earliest recorded instances of artistic expression by our ancient human ancestors. A recent study published in PLOS ONE sheds light on this remarkable find.


The study's authors conducted an analysis of the marks found in the Abri Castanet cave. They concluded that many of them were likely made by Neanderthals rather than preceding Homo sapiens. The scientists noted a variety of different markings, from lines and circles to more complicated geometric shapes and patterns.


The consist of lines, squiggles, and dots, seemingly created by fingers rather than tools. Specifically, the undulations and crests bear a resemblance to the traces one might leave behind by gently combing their fingers through moist sand.


This artistic technique, called finger fluting, was commonly used in prehistoric art. It involved dragging fingers through a soft surface. The cave walls, made of a chalky limestone called tuffeau, were more easily marked compared to harder stones like granite.


Utilizing the technique of photogrammetry, researchers from the University of Tours in France meticulously mapped and generated 3D models of the markings. The positioning and spacing of these lines and traces suggest a deliberate and careful arrangement, as noted by the authors.


However, the question of whether the carvings held symbolic meaning for their creators remains uncertain, according to Shara Bailey, a biological anthropologist at New York University who was not involved in the study. The researchers themselves acknowledged the inherent impossibility of obtaining definitive answers.


"We can only speculate about the motivations and possible symbolic meanings behind these markings," they wrote.


Nevertheless, this evidence serves to remind us of the creativity and artistic ability of our ancient Neanderthal ancestors. It is likely that further research will reveal more insights into their fascinating culture.


In contrast, a cave painting dating back 44,000 years, created by Homo sapiens, provides a more authentic representation of the artist's perspective. The artwork portrays human-like figures engaging in the pursuit of pigs and a water buffalo. The figures appear to be in the process of hunting, a strong indication that it was created by people rather than Neanderthals.


While early researchers deemed Neanderthals as less advanced compared to humans, recent discoveries have challenged this perspective. The available evidence indicates that Neanderthals not only buried their dead, but also engaged in the creation of jewelry and the construction of intricate structures.


"The evidence is clear that Neanderthals were capable of producing sophisticated artwork and engaging in other symbolic behaviors," said Bailey.


Overall, this discovery further emphasizes the creative spirit of our ancestors. It also serves as a reminder of our shared human history that binds us together even from thousands of years ago.


Neanderthals inhabited Europe long before the arrival of Homo sapiens. While there is evidence of modern humans in France 54,000 years ago, their widespread presence did not occur until 45,000 years ago. This timeline highlights the gradual expansion of our species across the continent, revealing intriguing insights into our shared history.


The La Roche-Cotard Cave, where the markings were discovered, was sealed approximately 51,000 to 60,000 years ago. This timeline was determined by the researchers through the collection and dating of samples, using a technique known as optically stimulated luminescence dating. This method measures ionized radiation levels to establish the age of the cave.


The timing of the cave's sealing makes it unlikely that the carvings were created by modern humans. Furthermore, the presence of only Mousterian lithics, a type of stone tool associated with Neanderthals rather than Homo sapiens in Western Europe, adds to the evidence. "It is very unlikely that the markings were made by Homo sapiens," said Bailey.


There could be alternative explanations for the markings, such as those caused by animals or other natural phenomena. Additionally, while the authors assert that these cave art examples are the oldest attributed to Neanderthals, previous discoveries, if verified, may pose challenges to this claim.


Nevertheless, this study provides an interesting perspective on the cultural development of ancient human species. It also stands as a reminder of our long shared history and the creative potential of our Neanderthal ancestors. By continuing to chip away at the mysteries surrounding their civilization, we can come closer to understanding our shared past.


This knowledge is not only important for academics, but for all of us. It serves to remind us that our ancient roots are both varied and complex. We are connected by a common history that spans thousands of years, one in which we can take pride. Such lessons in human evolution touch on the core values of empathy and understanding shared by all people across time and space.












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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com


To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav


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