Early dates for ‘Neanderthal cave art’ may be wrong


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December 2018


Current evidence suggests that some Neanderthal populations engaged in modern human-like forms of symbolic behavior, including: the extensive and systematic use of ochers and other prepared mineral pigments (i.e., paint; Dayet et al., 2014, Heyes et al., 2016); use of perforated shells and various other modified and unmodified objects and substances as ornaments (e.g., ‘jewelry’), including bird feathers (Finlayson et al., 2012) and claws (Radovčić et al., 2015); manufacture of elaborate structures of unknown purpose inside deep cave passages (Jaubert et al., 2016); and engraving of non-figurative markings on bones (Majkić et al., 2017) and cortical areas of flaked stone artifacts (Majkić et al., 2018), and also on immobile rock surfaces (i.e., at Gorham's Cave; Rodríguez-Vidal et al., 2014). Scientific opinion is deeply divided over the meaning of these behaviors—the empirical evidence for which, in some instances, is not yet unanimously accepted. Indeed, the notion that even late-surviving Neanderthals had acquired aspects of cognitive ‘modernity’, either independently or through direct cultural contact (including interbreeding) with the first modern humans to enter Europe, remains a subject of lively debate.


Cave Art, Neanderthal, Uranium-Series Dating

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Journal of Human Evolution, Vol. 125 (2018-12).