Updated Monday, August 2, 2021 –

The researchers assure that the Neanderthals have accessed this cave in Malaga on several occasions to symbolically mark the stalagmite some 65,000 years ago, a chronology that has generated debate in the scientific community.

Combination of images of the red marks in the Ardales cave, in Malaga.AFP PHOTO / UNIVERSITY OF BARCELONA / ICREA
  • Newspaper library The Ardales Cave, the first Andalusian Palaeolithic site of the European Itinerary

They are probably the oldest known cave paintings in the world And now an international team of researchers has corroborated the human origin of the red marks that were discovered in the Ardales cave (in Malaga) and that were made a few 65,000 to.

The researchers, who maintain that these marks do not have a natural origin, have further verified that theNeanderthals will have agreed on several occasions to that cave to mark symbolically and in an intentional and repeated way a stalagmite located in the middle of a large room.

Scientists from the University of Cdiz, the University of Barcelona, ​​the National Center for Scientific Research of the University of Bordeaux and the Neanderthal Museum in Germany have participated in the research, and the results are published today in the American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Researchers have confirmed that, despite what the most critical scientific voices hold, the red marks on the stalagmite are the result of human activity and that the ocher they used to make those paintings was collected outside the cave.

The research has involved, among others, the professors Jos Ramos (Prehistory) and Salvador Domnguez-Bella (Crystallographer and Mineraologist) and the scientist Pedro Cantalejo, from the University of Cdiz; and the African researchers Pitarch Mart and Joao Zilhao, from the University of Barcelona.

The main research centers that have intervened in the work have highlighted today that one of the main challenges of archeology is to determine when the symbols appeared and what implications their use had on human behavior.

They have also pointed out that the oldest paintings found so far are those of three Spanish caves, located in Cceres, Cantabria and Malaga, which would be about 65,000 years old, although their dating, according to the centers, has unleashed a very intense debate in the scientific community, because it suggests that the paintings were made by Neanderthals.

In paintings analyzed in the islands of Borneo and Sulawesi (Indonesia), minimum ages of 39,900 and 43,900 years respectively have been obtained and dated.

Another example is that of the cave of The Castle (Cantabria), where a minimum age of 40,800 years has been obtained for a red disc; and the oldest chronologies, up to 64,800 years, correspond to one hand (in Mischievous, Cceres), a set of linear strokes forming a symbol similar to a ladder (in La Pasiega, Cantabria) and a group of colored stalagmites (Ardales, Mlaga).

But these later chronologies have been the subject of controversy, because they would indicate that these artistic manifestations appeared at least 20,000 years before the arrival of modern men on the European continent, which points to a Neanderthal author.

The most skeptical have doubted that the red marks on the surface of the great stalagmatic dome in the Ardales cavern are of human origin and maintain that they could be natural deposits, but the researchers have verified in this new study that they were made with a ocher-based pigment and applied in a deliberate way.

This Malaga cavity is one of the most important Paleolithic wall art caves in southern Europe and more than a thousand graphic representations, both abstract and figurative, have already been counted, and inside there have also been tools for the processing of colorants and pigment fragments.

The location and distribution of the marks, as well as the size and morphology of the crystals that make up these red residues in the stalagmite rule out that they are deposits of natural origin, according to the researchers.

The investigation assumes the finding that Neanderthal populations were perfectly organized societies, in its social, economic and symbolic aspects, as explained by Professor Jos Ramos in a note released by the University of Cdiz.

The researcher Joao Zilhao, from the University of Barcelona, ​​has observed that the data from the Ardales cave and other Iberian caves with wall art made more than 65,000 years ago reveal that the underworld played a fundamental role in symbolic systems of Neanderthal communities.

In a note released by the University of Barcelona, ​​the researchers have pointed out that the action of repeatedly marking with red pigment such imposing formations as the Ardales dome suggests that their authors wanted to highlight and perpetuate the importance of that location through narratives transmitted between generations.

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