What makes us human is the main question buttressing archeological research. Archeologists and anthropologists constantly search for signs of abstract thinking among Homo Sapiens and his relatives. The usage of tools is one of the most compelling evidence of abstract thinking. However, another sign of it is represented by artistic endeavors. Art is regarded as the capacity to render human thought and imagination in a stylized material and immaterial form.
Neanderthals have long been seen as the primitive ancestors of humans, so the discovery of Neanderthal cave art may change opinions. But, in fact, they lived side by side with Homo Sapiens for several thousand years. New findings reveal that Neanderthals possessed the capacity to apply abstract thinking into artistic projects.
Gorham’s Cave, positioned in Gibraltar, houses such a piece of art. Researchers discovered cross-hatched engravings inside the cave. The sign is thought to be at least 39.000 years old.
Caves are the scientific explorers’ gold mines, because they have the capacity to better preserve traces of activity and organic material which would not survive otherwise. In the deepest cave in the world, researchers found even a new species of beetle.
Neanderthal cave art project required at least one hour of hard work
Professor Clive Finlayson, director of heritage at the Gibraltar Museum, says that “Most of the lines composing the design were made by repeatedly and carefully passing a pointed lithic tool into the grooves – excluding the possibility of an unintentional or utilitarian origin,” BBC reports.
Professor Paul Tacon, an expert on the matter from Griffith University, Australia, says that “we will never know the meaning the design held for the maker or the Neanderthals who inhabited the cave, but the fact that they were marking their territory in this way before modern humans arrived in the region has huge implications for debates about what it is to be human and the origin of art,” according to Daily Mail.
Neanderthal tools have been found in Gorham’s Cave as well, increasing the consistency of researchers’ claims to have found a piece of art. However, not everyone in the scientific community agrees with the conclusion. Other opinions involve the hypothesis that Neanderthals were inspired after contact with modern humans.
The cave is placed in a dolomite regions. Dolomite is a very hard rock, so a Neanderthal cave art project would have taken at least one continuous hour of work, necessitating around 200 to 300 strokes performed with a sharp object. An interesting fact is that the engraving is positioned in a 90 degree angle curb inside the cave.