Did Neanderthals Really Do Cave Art in Spain 66,000 Years Ago?

For some reason a lot of people are intent on “humanizing” Neanderthals and other hominid species. Since there is disagreement about what it means to be human, there is plenty of room to argue about it. But while what we define as “human” may be a matter of opinion, the things used to support our choice should be a matter of facts. I don’t see that happening here.

One manifestation of this was the declaration that Neanderthals were responsible for “cave art” in Spain around 66,000 years ago. This headline blared “Neanderthal Artwork Confirmed.” The Washington Post was more cautious, saying they may have been the artists.

The main reason to assume that Neanderthals were the artists is that uranium-thorium dating of calcite deposits on top of the lines of the red earth material they used for “paint” dated the finds in three caves to a time when it is thought Neanderthals were the only hominids around- 66,000 years ago in the case of the oldest date. Our species was not thought to have made it to Spain until 45,000 years ago. That date counts on the idea that the calcite deposit legitimately grew after the “paint” was applied instead of just an artifact of the “paint” having less ability to adhere to the surface of a crystal compared to limestone cave walls.

The other thing is, no remains of either us or them have been found at the sites in question. Scientists think that modern humans did not come along until later, but how many times have we heard recently that humans were in one place or another earlier than what was previously thought? And since Spain is practically connected to North Africa its not like a human presence there would have to start from the Mid-east or Eastern Europe as it appears happened with the wave of human occupation which “stuck”.

But that is speculation. Let me get to the evidence. The most elaborate “painting” they found was a box within a box like so…

Now it turns out that there are 32 symbols that true modern humans used in cave art for at least 30,000 years. This indicates that these where not random drawings but each symbol communicated something across many generations of time over a vast geographic area.

Now I want you to compare the picture above, which contains what they claim is something painted by Neanderthals in a cave in Spain some 60-odd thousand years ago to the picture below which was undoubtedly painted by our species in a cave in Spain …

It sure looks like the earlier cave art is an formative example of the bottom symbols. In this case one of the 32 symbols known as a “Spanish Tectiform”.

As if that wasn’t enough in itself to make one question if the earlier art was made by a separate species, there is the issue of the negative hand prints. We have never seen a Neanderthal hand in the flesh, but if you go by the size of the last little bit of bone on the end of their fingers, they must have had hugely thick fingertips compared to humans. Perhaps double the thickness.

But the hand prints found look like they are within the range of normal human proportions.

Look here and in particular the upper left one here to see what I mean.

I think there is a story here, but its not that Neanderthals made cave art. It is that some group of humans, H. Sapiens, occupied Spain long before we thought that they had.

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@T.j_Runyon you are one of the anthropologists around here. What do you think?

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I have been following this thread here and there. What exactly are you asking my opinion on? Are Neandertals a distinct species? Would I consider neandys human? What does it mean to be human?

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Or cave art?

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@T.j_Runyon I was really looking for your opinion on the similarity of the cave art to that known to have been produced by modern humans later in that same area. To me its strong evidence that the same culture line was at work on both efforts, mitigating against the idea that Neanderthals did either. And also your view on the structure of the hand. Based on the tremendous thickness of the fingertip bones compared to us, if they tried to make a negative hand print I don’t think it would look just like ours. Would it? The hand prints on those links all seem to be hands like ours to me.

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The boxes and dots are interesting. What do they mean? How wide spread are they? Are they just doodle decorations or more?


@Patrick, @jongarvey, @Agauger, @Guy_Coe, come look at this. It’s amazing!


Looks like she has concluded that Neanderthals were, indeed, making art during the 30 thousand year “overlap” period.

Another query that von Petzinger hopes to reply sometime is whether or not Neanderthals — the unique inhabitants of Europe, who lived there till going extinct roughly 30,000 years in the past — have been additionally making graphic marks. Traditionally, all Ice Age artwork has been attributed by scientists to our human ancestors. However, a lately recognized crosshatch engraving from a collapse Gibraltar seems to have been made by Neanderthals, elevating the intriguing risk that this intently associated species was creating artwork. “Since the 2 species overlapped in Europe for at the very least 10,000 years, it could be that a few of the indicators relationship 30,000 years or older have been made by Neanderthals as a substitute of Homo sapiens , which might add a totally new dimension to the examine of Ice Age artwork,” von Petzinger says.

What is the theological objection to such a scenario, when understood against Paul’s Acts 17 speech as a backdrop?