In two new studies, published yesterday in Science and Science Advances, researchers Alistair Pike, an archaeologist at the University of Southampton, João Zilhão, a University of Barcelona archaeologist and Dirk Hoffmann, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology who specializes in dating minerals lay out the case that 65,000 year old murals and 115,000 year old beads predate the arrival of modern Homo sapiens to Europe. The dating techniques analyze the mineral crusts overlying the paintings and the seashells and pigments. They actually doubled the age estimate Zilhão got when he examined the same artifacts in a 2010 study.
They make a leap is someone else must have created them… that someone else is Neanderthals. They argue that Neanderthals were the cognitive equals of Homo sapiens and that common ancestor may be capable of creating symbolic art. Margaret Conkey, an emerita professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an authority on prehistoric cave art, challenges this leap, stating, “Does a date alone equal a Neanderthal presence?”