According to Artnet.com, a new study of ancient cave paintings in Spain has identified the oldest known works of art. According to these new findings, the Neanderthals, long believed to be lacking the necessary intelligence for art-making, were in fact the first human species to create art.
The walls of the La Pasiega, Maltravieso, and Ardales caves feature a rudimentary hand stencil and a drawing of a ladder, as well as other markings. The prehistoric artworks have long been attributed to humans, but new, more reliable testing proves that the paintings are much older than previously thought. (The first-known Neanderthal artwork, a hashtag-like carving, was discovered in Gibraltar in 2014.)
Rather than using carbon dating, the new studies, which were published this week in the journals Science and Science Advances, used radioisotopes of uranium and thorium. Rock and calcium carbonate formations atop the ochre markings indicate that the artwork is an astonishing 65,000 years old—made a good 15,000 years before the Indonesian hand stencils once thought to be the world’s oldest works of art.