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Clever Neanderthals … until this is dusted down in flames

15 June 2012

At http://anthropology.net/2012/06/14/were-paleolithic-european-cave-painti… is an argument that revolves around the viability of dating techniques and whether methodologies different to C14 are singing from the same hymn sheet. In that respect, a new paper might very well debunk this one very quickly. In the meantime we have a paper in Science that wonders if Neanderthals rather than modern humans were responsible for some of the cave art – in this instance, in Spain. Speliotherms were dated using the uranium-thorium methodology – and the speleotherms in this case are flowstone that have formed a film over the paintings. Speleotherms comprise stalagmites and stalactites as well as flowstone – which forms on a flat surface rather than from the process of dripping moisture. Samples were taken from 50 separate pieces of cave art from eleven different caves in Spain. Three of the results are described as interesting – dating over 40,000 years ago. It was around this time that modern humans are thought to have penetrated Europe – but the dates are really just the minimum date allowed. The paintings beneath the speleotherm is older – the question is by how much. If they date back, shall we say to 45,000 years ago, and then Neanderthal artists will have to be considered (the same story is at www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120614142840.htm)

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