New dating tests have proven that drawings from the Caves of Nerja, in Málaga, Spain, are the oldest paintings in the world made by humans. The pictures apparently depict seals and were painted more than 42,000 years ago, making them the first known cave paintings created by Neanderthals.
Before this discovery, the drawings made about 32,000 years ago in the Chauvent-Pont-d’Arc Cave in the Ardèche department of southern France, were the considered the oldest. However the new tests, dating the charcoal that was found next to the Nerja cave paintings, dates them somewhere between 42,300 and 43,500 years old. The paintings themselves haven’t yet been tested since the team has been hampered with lack of funding.
Project leader José Luis Sanchidrián, from the University of Córdoba, thinks that it could revolutionize the understanding of human history. Neanderthals decorated their bodies with paint and had an aesthetic sense, he states. Until now, it was thought that Homo sapiens sapiens created all of the art in caves. It’s now believed that Neanderthals created these drawings, something that’s quite shocking.
While this has yet to be confirmed, Sanchidrián thinks that since the drawings don’t display any parallelism which is indicative of human paleolithic art, and that Neanderthals ate seals, these drawings could have been drawn by them. Also, there are no remnants of humans in this part of the Iberian Peninsula.
Scientists think that this cave was one of the last in which Neanderthals sought refuge, escaping the encroachment of Cro-Magnons.