Hand stencils in Maltravieso Cave in Spain. Photo credit: H. Collado
The oldest known cave paintings were created more than 64,000 years ago, and were not made by modern humans, according to a study published last week (February 23) in Science. Instead, the report concludes, the artists were probably Neanderthals. The findings add to mounting evidence that our ancient hominin cousins were capable of greater cultural and creative complexity than generally assumed.
“Neanderthals appear to have had a cultural competence that was shared by modern humans,” John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who wasn’t involved with the study, tells National Geographic. “They were not dumb brutes, they were recognizably human.”