Cave paintings created by Neanderthals 65,000 years ago were found in Spain. This was tens of years before modern humans arrived indicating that Neanderthals were the first artists on earth.
Self-expression through art
The belief that modern humans are the only species to have expressed themselves through art has been overturned due to this discovery.
This is a major breakthrough in human evolution. The behaviour of modern humans differs only by very narrow margins from those of Neanderthals.
Evidence for Neanderthal art has been contested until now. Mostly the art found was not old enough to rule out modern humans as the original artists. The latest findings in Spain are based on stencils, geometric shapes on cave walls and symbols are based on new dates.
Based in Europe
Modern humans left Africa for Europe, about 40,000 years ago while Neanderthals were already firmly at home in Europe. Discoveries of skeletons, tools and decorative adornments, reach back more than 120,000 years in the region
In western Spain, a hand shape thought to be at least 66,000 years old, was found in the Maltravieso cave. Near Malaga, in the Ardales cave, stalagmites and stalactites have been painted red and also dates back to this time.
The meaning of these paintings is still unknown however. What were Neanderthals doing in these dangerous caves if it wasn’t ritual, and what does it mean?
In southeast Spain, in the Aviones cave, dyed and decorated seashells were found made by Neanderthals 115,000 years ago. All of this points to artistic tradition.
Neanderthals have mainly been described as incapable of moral or theistic conceptions. Some researchers now think that they were part of our family, our ancestors. It’s suggested that Neanderthals were not cognitively distinct, or less intellectually endowed, but just a variant of humankind that no longer exists.