Researchers say cave art may have been pioneered by Neanderthals

Some of the cave art may have been created by Neanderthals 65,000 years agoaccording to a team of scientists.

The painted caves were discovered in Spain. According to the researchers, the rock walls were their canvasses. Also they point out that the paintings are bold and clearly not some kind of smeary accident, and they used red ochre, from soil mixed with water for paint.

One geometric design looks like part of a ladder, forming rectangles and there are stencils where someone pressed a hand up against the wall and then apparently blew liquid ochre over it.

Someone also painted swirls of bright red dots and patches onto flowing curtains of stalactites that hang from the cave ceilings.

The work has long been known and mostly attributed to humans, who originally came from Africa and are believed to have arrived in Spain about 45,000 years ago.

However, new tests on the rock and calcium carbonate that formed over parts of the ochre show that they were painted 65,000 years ago, about 20,000 years before the first modern humans arrived.

"The only species that were around at that time were Neanderthals," explains Alistair Pike, an archaeologist from the University of Southampton in England who was part of the team that did the work. "So, therefore, the paintings must've been made by them."

Archaeologist and joint lead researcher Dr Chris Standish, from the University of Southampton, says, "This is an incredibly exciting discovery which suggests Neanderthals were much more sophisticated than is popularly believed.

"Our results show that the paintings we dated are, by far, the oldest known cave art in the world, and were created at least 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe from Africa – therefore they must have been painted by Neanderthals."