Markings discovered on stalagmites in southern Spain prove Neanderthals were creative and “closer to humans” than previously thought, a new study says.
Neanderthals, whose lineage died out about 40,000 years ago, have long been stereotyped as unsophisticated “cavemen.”
The study, which found that pigments were made in the caves at different times between 15,000 and 20,000 years apart, was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
He contends that the findings show that the pigments were artificial and dispels an earlier suggestion that the pigments were the result of natural oxide flux.
Joao Zilhao, one of the study’s authors, said dating techniques showed that Neanderthals had spit ocher on the stalagmites, possibly as part of a ritual.
“The importance is that it changes our attitude towards Neanderthals. They were closer to humans. Recent research has shown that they liked objects, they mated with humans and now we can show that they painted caves like us, ”he said.
The study’s findings support the idea that Neanderthals used pigments symbolically for an extended period of time in a method “consistent with recurring artistic activity.”