Science writer Michael Marshall, author of The Genesis Quest (2020), tells us that many paleontologists resist the idea that early humans called Neanderthals created any artworks. They prefer to attributed all such works to groups that arrived on the scene later, in a more comfortable evolutionary scheme. The trouble is, the dates are often hard to determine and the reasoning is sometimes circular. As Marshall puts it,
“People had assumed that they could tell the age of cave paintings by the style in which it was depicted,” says [Alistair] Pike. Ever since the first prehistoric art was found in the late 1800s, there has been a sense that art should evolve linearly: the oldest pieces should be extremely simple and abstract, with later ones becoming more technically skilled and creative. Hence the scepticism over Chauvet, despite the paintings having been carbon-dated.MICHAEL MARSHALL, “ WHEN DID HUMANS START MAKING ART AND WERE NEANDERTHALS ARTISTS TOO?” AT NEW SCIENTIST
The Artistic Timeline
Curiously, the timeline didn’t work that way in the modern world. A quest for accuracy in rendering nature that started in the Stone Age has, in many places, been superseded by impressionism, pointillism, and abstract or found art.
While the professional squabble rages, much of the public is unaware of how old much human artwork really is:
In a 2018 follow-up, Pike’s team dated the art in three more Spanish caves. The first was La Pasiega, which is in the same hill as El Castillo. A symbol made of red lines turned out to be at least 64,800 years old. The second was Maltravieso in western Spain, where a hand stencil proved to be at least 66,700 years old, making it the oldest cave art known in the world. Finally, some of the red paint on stalagmites in Ardales cave on Spain’s southern coast turned out to be at least 65,500 years old.
When I mentioned these dates to the holidaymakers in northern Spain, there were audible gasps.MICHAEL MARSHALL, “ WHEN DID HUMANS START MAKING ART AND WERE NEANDERTHALS ARTISTS TOO?” AT NEW SCIENTIST (JULY 17, 2022)
Why the gasps? Because, if the work is that old, most likely, Neanderthals did it. And Neanderthals aren’t supposed to have been able to do that.
Read the rest at Mind Matters News, published by Discovery Institute’s Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence.