Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

First Neanderthal rock engraving found in Gibraltar: Abstract art older than thought?

Date:
September 4, 2014
Source:
CNRS
Summary:
The first example of a rock engraving attributed to Neanderthals has been discovered in Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar. Dated at over 39,000 years old, it consists of a deeply impressed cross-hatching carved into rock. Its analysis calls into question the view that the production of representational and abstract depictions on cave walls was a cultural innovation introduced into Europe by modern humans. On the contrary, the findings support the hypothesis that Neanderthals had a symbolic material culture.

Entrance to Gorham's Cave (top), Gibraltar photograph (middle) and analysis of the engraving (bottom).
Credit: © F. d'Errico

The first example of a rock engraving attributed to Neanderthals has been discovered in Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar, by an international team bringing together prehistorians from the French Laboratory 'De la Préhistoire à l'Actuel: Culture, Environnement et Anthropologie' (PACEA -- CNRS/Université Bordeaux/Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication), and researchers from the UK and Spain. Dated at over 39,000 years old, it consists of a deeply impressed cross-hatching carved into rock. Its analysis calls into question the view that the production of representational and abstract depictions on cave walls was a cultural innovation introduced into Europe by modern humans.

Related Articles


On the contrary, the findings, published Sept. 1 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, support the hypothesis that Neanderthals had a symbolic material culture.

The production of representational and abstract depictions on cave walls is seen as a key stage in the development of human cultures. Until now, this cultural innovation was considered to be a characteristic feature of modern humans, who colonized Europe around 40,000 years ago. It has also frequently been used to suggest that there were marked cognitive differences between modern humans and the Neanderthals who preceded them, and who did not express themselves in this way. The recent discovery in Gorham's Cave changes the picture.

It consists of an abstract engraving in the form of a deeply impressed cross-hatching carved into the bedrock at the back of the cave. At the time it was identified it was covered by a layer of sediment shown by radiocarbon dating to be 39,000 years old. Since the engraving lies beneath this layer it is therefore older. This dating, together with the presence of Mousterian* tools characteristic of Neanderthals in the sediments covering the engraving, shows that it was made by Neanderthals, who still populated the south of the Iberian peninsula at that time.

Researchers at the PACEA Laboratory (CNRS/Université de Bordeaux/Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication) undertook a microscopic analysis of the engraving, produced a 3-D reconstruction of it, and carried out an experimental study, which demonstrated its human origin. The work also showed that the engraved lines are not the result of utilitarian activity, such as the cutting of meat or skins, but rather that of repeatedly and intentionally passing a robust pointed lithic tool (a pointed tool made of stone) into the rock to carve deep grooves. The lines were skilfully carved, and the researchers calculated that between 188 and 317 strokes of the engraving tool were necessary to achieve this result.

The discovery supports the view that graphic expression was not exclusive to modern humans, and that some Neanderthal cultures produced abstract engravings, using these to mark their living space.

The research was supported by an ERC grant.

*Mousterian culture was produced in Europe by Neanderthals during the Middle Paleolithic (300,000 to 39,000 years ago).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by CNRS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. Rodriguez-Vidal, F. d'Errico, F. Giles Pacheco, R. Blasco, J. Rosell, R. P. Jennings, A. Queffelec, G. Finlayson, D. A. Fa, J. M. Gutierrez Lopez, J. S. Carrion, J. J. Negro, S. Finlayson, L. M. Caceres, M. A. Bernal, S. Fernandez Jimenez, C. Finlayson. A rock engraving made by Neanderthals in Gibraltar. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1411529111

Cite This Page:

CNRS. "First Neanderthal rock engraving found in Gibraltar: Abstract art older than thought?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 September 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140904084506.htm>.
CNRS. (2014, September 4). First Neanderthal rock engraving found in Gibraltar: Abstract art older than thought?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140904084506.htm
CNRS. "First Neanderthal rock engraving found in Gibraltar: Abstract art older than thought?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140904084506.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) — Stanford University wants to unlock the secrets of the player piano. Researchers are restoring and studying self-playing pianos and the music rolls that recorded major composers performing their own work. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Newsy (Dec. 16, 2014) — A group of scientists looked at the genetics behind the domestication of the horse and showed how human manipulation changed horses' DNA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) — A collection of rare manuscripts by composers Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet are due to go on sale at auction on December 17. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 15, 2014) — Researchers are looking to the past to gain a clearer picture of what the future holds for ice in the Arctic. A project to analyse and digitize ship logs dating back to the 1850's aims to lengthen the timeline of recorded ice data. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins