Science has published a report about new dates for paleolithic cave art in Spain. One of the oldest dates to emerge from dating the calcite deposits on the artwork is 40,800 years ago, on a red dot like the ones in the photo below.
To quote the abstract: “These minimum ages reveal either that cave art was a part of the cultural repertoire of the first anatomically modern humans in Europe or that perhaps Neandertals also engaged in painting caves.”
This last bit is particularly intriguing (and the web seems to agree with me; this story is everywhere today). One of the ways we define ourselves as human is the fact that we create symbolic art. Perhaps we aren’t the only species on this planet to have evolved the ability to use shape and color to capture the meaning we observe in the world around us.
More on the BBC, and read my review of Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog’s gorgeous 3D movie about Chauvet in France).