June 21 () –
Markings on a cave wall in France made over 57,000 years ago They are the oldest known engravings made by Neanderthals.
It is the result of a study published in the open access journal ‘PLOS ONE’by Jean-Claude Marquet of the University of Tours and colleagues.
Research in recent decades has revealed much about the cultural complexity of Neanderthals. However, relatively little is known about its symbolic or artistic expression. Only a short list of symbolic productions is attributed to Neanderthals, the interpretation of which is often the subject of debate. In this study, Marquet and his colleagues identified markings on a cave wall in France as the oldest known Neanderthal engravings.
It is the cave of La Roche-Cotard, in the French Loire Valley, where a series of non-figurative marks on the wall are interpreted as finger marks, made by human hands.
The researchers did trace analysis and used photogrammetry to create 3D models of these marks, comparing them to known and experimental human marks. Based on the shape, spacing, and arrangement of these engravings, the team concluded that they are deliberate, organized and intentional forms created by human hands.
The team also dated the cave’s sediments using optically stimulated luminescence, determining that the cave was closed off by fill sediments around 57,000 years ago, long before Homo sapiens settled in the region.
This, combined with the fact that the stone tools in the cave are uniquely Mousterian, a technology associated with Neanderthals, It is irrefutable proof that these engravings are the work of Neanderthals.
Being non-figurative symbols, their intention is not clear. However, they are similar in age to rock carvings made by Homo sapiens in other parts of the world. This adds to a growing body of evidence that Neanderthal behavior and activities were as complex and diverse as those of our ancestors.
The authors add that “fifteen years after the resumption of excavations at the La Roche-Cotard site, the engravings have been dated to more than 57,000 years and, thanks to stratigraphy, probably to about 75,000 years, making it the oldest decorated cave in France, if not Europe!”