Planet Earth

After eight years at the University of Bristol, including three years as Head of Archaeology and Anthropology, I moved to the University of Southampton. I research in several areas of archaeological science. These include the development of dating methods for bone beyond the range of radiocarbon, novel applications of dating methods, and the use of isotopes in the reconstruction of human lifeways. My current research focuses on uranium-series disequilibrium dating and the chronology of modern human evolution, and is providing insights into the timing of the appearance of the earliest anatomically modern humans in Africa, and the disappearance of the last Neanderthals in Iberia. In parallel, my work on dating of Palaeolithic cave art has shown the oldest dated cave painting to be in Iberia at least 25, years earlier than the arrival of modern humans, and therefore made by Neanderthals. This has profound implications for our understanding of the origins of symbolic behavior.

New method shows cave art is older: Did Neanderthals do it?

It is renowned for prehistoric parietal cave art featuring charcoal drawings and polychrome paintings of contemporary local fauna and human hands. The earliest paintings were applied during the Upper Paleolithic , around 36, years ago. Aside from the striking quality of its polychromatic art, Altamira’s fame stems from the fact that its paintings were the first European cave paintings for which a prehistoric origin was suggested and promoted.

Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola published his research with the support of Juan de Vilanova y Piera in to initial public acclaim. However, the publication of Sanz de Sautuola’s research quickly led to a bitter public controversy among experts, some of whom rejected the prehistoric origin of the paintings on the grounds that prehistoric human beings lacked sufficient ability for abstract thought.

U-Th ratios indicate that the red disk was made at least 40, years U-Series Dating of Paleolithic Art in 11 Caves in Spain Science,

Paleolithic paintings in El Castillo cave in Northern Spain date back at least 40, years — making them Europe’s oldest known cave art, according to new research published June 14 in Science. The research team was led by the University of Bristol and included Dr Paul Pettitt from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology, a renowned expert in cave art.

Their work found that the practice of cave art in Europe began up to 10, years earlier than previously thought, indicating the paintings were created either by the first anatomically modern humans in Europe or, perhaps, by Neanderthals. As traditional methods such as radiocarbon dating do not work where there is no organic pigment, the team dated the formation of tiny stalactites on top of the paintings using the radioactive decay of uranium.

This gave a minimum age for the art. Where larger stalagmites had been painted, maximum ages were also obtained. Hand stencils and disks made by blowing paint onto the wall in El Castillo cave were found to date back to at least 40, years, making them the oldest known cave art in Europe, , years older than previous examples from France.

A large club-shaped symbol in the famous polychrome chamber at Altamira was found to be at least 35, years old, indicating that painting started there 10, years earlier than previously thought, and that the cave was revisited and painted a number of times over a period spanning more than 20, years. Dr Pike said: “Evidence for modern humans in Northern Spain dates back to 41, years ago, and before them were Neanderthals.

Our results show that either modern humans arrived with painting already part of their cultural activity or it developed very shortly after, perhaps in response to competition with Neanderthals — or perhaps the art is Neanderthal art. The creation of art by humans is considered an important marker for the evolution of modern cognition and symbolic behaviour, and may be associated with the development of language.

Dr Pike said: “We see evidence for earlier human symbolism in the form of perforated beads, engraved egg shells and pigments in Africa , years ago, but it appears that the earliest cave paintings are in Europe. One argument for its development here is that competition for resources with Neanderthals provoked increased cultural innovation from the earliest groups of modern humans in order to survive.

U-Series Dating of Paleolithic Art in 11 Caves in Spain

Over the last decade several dozen direct dates on cave art pigments or associated materials have supplemented more traditional style-based attempts to establish a chronological and developmental scheme for cave art. Here, we examine the state-of-the-art of Palaeolithic cave art dating, with particular emphasis on certain radiocarbon and Uranium-series projects. We examine the relative successes and weaknesses of this cutting edge science. We conclude that there are several weaknesses in current applications that are in serious need of addressing.

Issues of sample contamination and of the heuristic relationship between materials dated and the production of the art are particularly problematic. This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

U-series dating of Palaeolithic rock art at Fuente del Trucho (Aragón, Spain). Quaternary International,(Part B), DOI BibTeX Endnote. Pike, A. W. G.,​.

Toggle navigation. Have you forgotten your login? Journal articles. Margaret W. Conkey 4 AuthorId : Author. Michel Fontugne 1, 2 AuthorId : Author. Diego Garate 3 AuthorId : Author.

Hands in the dark: Palaeolithic rock art in Gorham’s Cave (Gibraltar)

Home Contact Imprint Sitemap Webmail. Home CV Publications. Articles Hoffmann, D. Journal of Human Evolution, : A geological record of multiple Pleistocene tsunami inundations in an oceanic island: The case of Maio, Cape Verde. Sedimentology, 67 3 ,

In , however, cave art of Palaeolithic age was discovered in Shulgan-Tash (​also U-Series Dating of Paleolithic Art in 11 Caves in Spain.

Dating cave art is a key issue for understanding human cognitive development. Knowing whether the ability for abstraction and conveying reality involved in artistic development is unique to Homo sapiens or if it was shared with other species, or simply knowing at what moment these abilities developed, is vital in order to understand the complexity of human evolution. Currently in Spain, for the most part, when trying to find out the age of artistic expressions in caves, dating is done with U-series dating, using the two elements uranium and thorium in the underlying and overlapping layers of calcite in the paint itself.

However, the timeline this system proposes seems to provide evidence for erroneous ages and an inverse relationship between the concentration of uranium and the apparent ages. The key, according to the Cordoba team, seems to be in the mobility of uranium, which would have assigned older and inaccurate ages to the cave art in some Spanish caves, ascribing the art to Homo neanderthalensis. The research team analyzed several samples of calcite related to the chronometric test of a set of rocks in the Nerja Cave, obtaining proof of the complexity of the dating on calcite for the study of the chronology of cave art.

In this way, they directly question the generally accepted conclusions to date about the artistic manifestations in several caves being the work of Neanderthals, which had been determined based solely on the Uranium-thorium dating method. It is essential to study in more detail the evolution of these artistic manifestations in order to establish a rigorous and reliable chronological framework that allows us to understand and comprehend human artistic development.

Application to rock art project?

Study Raises Doubts that Nerja Cave Art was Work of Neanderthals

Dating cave art is a key issue for understanding human cognitive development. Knowing whether the ability for abstraction and conveying reality involved in artistic development is unique to Homo sapiens or if it was shared with other species, or simply knowing at what moment these abilities developed, is vital in order to understand the complexity of human evolution. Currently in Spain, for the most part, when trying to find out the age of artistic expressions in caves, dating is done with U-series dating, using the two elements uranium and thorium in the underlying and overlapping layers of calcite in the paint itself.

However, the timeline this system proposes seems to provide evidence for erroneous ages and an inverse relationship between the concentration of uranium and the apparent ages. The key, according to the team, seems to be in the mobility of uranium, which would have assigned older and inaccurate ages to the cave art in some Spanish caves, ascribing the art to Homo neanderthalensis. The research team analyzed several samples of calcite related to the chronometric test of a set of rocks in the Nerja Cave, obtaining proof of the complexity of the dating on calcite for the study of the chronology of cave art.

characteristics of scientifically dated rock art sites (see Fig 2A, SI Table 1, Methods). Mann-Whitney U=, pdating. Indirect. Mixed. Yes. Paintings. Yes. (14).

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Cave of Altamira

The study relies on the concept that mineral forming rock flows over the walls of the caves covered in paleolithic art work. In doing so, it forms a sort of time capsule, meaning that anything encased within the flowstone is older than the flowstone itself. By comparing the ratio of atoms in the minerals deposited nearest the cave wall, the team was able to calculate the lower limit on the age of the art that lies just beneath. The results show that cave art began in the Early Aurignacian period, at about 40, years ago for a red disk and 37, years ago for the hand stencil which is pictured above and 35, years for the claviform-like symbol pictured blow.

If the earliest cave paintings appeared at around or before 40, years ago, then this the cave art coincides with the arrival of modern humans in western Europe which is thought to be 41, years ago.

U-series dating of Palaeolithic rock art at Fuente del Trucho (Aragón, Spain). Dirk L. Hoffmann, Pilar Utrilla, Manuel Bea, Alistair W.G. Pike, Marcos García-Diez.

About US. Abstract, Uranium-Series disequilibrium dating tech- Sep 11 caves in 11, margaret w. Rock art. Rock art in spain pike aw,. Abstract, m.

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