Contrary to common belief, Neanderthals may have been the first cave artists. Dirk Hoffmann of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Dresden and colleagues used uranium–thorium dating of carbonate crusts to show that cave paintings from three sites in Spain must be older than 64,000 years, predating the arrival of modern humans by 20,000 years or more. The paintings are mainly red and black with depictions of animals, linear signs, geometric shapes and stencils, and prints of hands. Together, they suggest a more advanced appreciation of symbols than had previously been thought, and prove that the cognitive abilities of our evolutionary cousins were similar to our own.

Further reading

D Hoffmann et al. 2018 Science 359 912.