It looks like the week has been dedicated to archaeological discoveries. If yesterday we were writing about the oldest moving pictures in the world, researchers from Britain, Spain and Portugal gave us a similar subject. Based on a new dating technique, the oldest cave painting in Europe goes back 40,800 years.
Researchers continue to be mesmerized by human evolution and the more they find the more excited are to look even further. Cave paintings are one of the scientists’ best ways to take a closer look at human evolution. Thanks to a new technique, dating cave painting just got a bit easier giving scientists a new way to travel back in time and try to understand how Neanderthals saw the world.
The new dating technique has been put at work in Spain cave paintings. Researchers had quite a shock to learn that the cave paintings they tested were in fact thousands of years older than what they originally thought. In fact, thanks to their test, the oldest cave painting in Europe goes back 40,800 years. It is so old researchers believe it was made by Neanderthals.
The findings might not look like much if your history is a bit dusty. However the new dating technique proves that Neanderthals were more complex than first imagined, giving scientists a whole new way to look at these distant cousins of the modern human. For years now it was believed that Neanderthals were one of the human family links that simply disappeared because they were not as intelligent as the Homo sapiens. The cave painting tells a different story.
The team led by Alistair Pike, archaeologist with the University of Bristol in UK used a new dating technique called uranium-thorium dating. Unlike the conventional radiocarbon dating which is limited, the uranium-thorium technique can read data some 1,000,000 years in time.
The team tested 40 Paleolithic paintings in almost a dozen Spanish caves. The technique used allowed them to analyze uranium, thorium and some elements in calcite deposits around the paintings themselves. The radioactive decay is measured to give scientists the exact time the calcite first started to form.