added by on February 8, 2012
Six paintings of seals are at least 42,000 years old and are the only known artistic images created by Neanderthal man.
The paintings were found in the Nerja Caves, 35 miles east of Malaga in the southern region of Andalusia.
Professor Jose Luis Sanchidrian, from the University of Cordoba, described the discovery as ‘an academic bombshell’, as all previous art work has been attributed to Homo sapiens.
Spanish scientists sent organic residue found next to the paintings to Miami, where they were dated at being between 43,500 and 42,300 years old. They hope to establish the exact age by testing parts of the paintings themselves, but their investigation has been hampered by a lack of cash. Antonio Garrido, in charge of preserving the caves, said the paintings could revolutionise our view of Neanderthal man, who is often portrayed as being monkey-like.
The Nerja Caves, an impressive series of enormous caverns, were discovered in 1959 by five boys out exploring. They are home to the world’s largest stalagmite, standing 105ft (32m) tall. Neanderthals lived in the caves before becoming extinct about 30,000 years ago, leaving behind flint tools. Later, prehistoric Homo sapiens used the caves, painting on the walls and leaving pottery, tools and skeletons. Neanderthals, who were known to eat seals, are thought to have died out from competition with Homo sapiens, although scientists recently suggested they were wiped out by climate change.
Previously the oldest works of art in the world were said to be 32,000-year-old images in the Chauvet Cave in southern France.