Artists have been painting inside this Spanish cave for 58,000 years | Smart News

Archaeologists inside Cueva de Ardales
Ramos-Muñoz et al., CC-BY 4.0

In 1821, an earthquake shook southern Spain and in the process exposed the entrance to Cueva de Ardales, a previously hidden cave. Inside, more than 1,000 red carvings and paintings dotted its walls, ceilings, ground rocks and other natural elements.

Archaeologists have long suspected the cave artwork to be very old, but now they believe they have a much clearer picture of exactly when and who created it. Neanderthals and later more modern humans left their artistic mark on the cave around 58,000 years ago, according to a new paper published this week in the journal PLOS One.

An international team of archaeologists explored Cueva de Ardales from 2011 to 2018, then used radiocarbon and uranium-thorium dating techniques to understand the cave’s history.

They believe Neanderthals first entered the cave in the Middle Paleolithic, or mid-Stone Age, drawing on the walls and keeping their tools inside. After that, human visits to Cueva de Ardales fluctuated until the end of the Neolithic/Chalcolithic – the last part of the Stone Age and the Copper Age – around 5,500 years ago,

Based on the items found by archaeologists in the cave, they also suspect that it was used only to create art and bury the dead, and not as a shelter. This suggests that the site was highly symbolic for its visitors.

Tools found inside Cueva de Ardales

Tools found inside Cueva de Ardales

Ramos-Muñoz et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

“What is very exciting is that, as far as we can tell so far, Ardales was not a classic campsite,” said Gerd-Christian Weniger, an archaeologist at the University of Cologne and the one of the authors of the article. Gizmodois Isaac Schultz. “It was not clear before the excavations.”

Although they found no chimneys or other evidence to suggest domestic occupation of the cave, the researchers did document a deer tooth, a wildcat bone, pieces of ochre, tools and the jawbone of a 12-year-old boy, among others. artifacts. They also found a fragment of rope and some charcoal dating to the late 16th or early 17th century, suggesting that someone abseiled into the cave a few hundred years before the earthquake. land of 1821 discovers its entrance.

Capped stalagmite

Artists made makeshift lamps from capped stalagmites.

Ramos-Muñoz et al., CC-BY 4.0

Natural light could not reach the cave’s deepest depths, so its prehistoric artists had to improvise to see what they were drawing. Researchers have found charcoal residue in stalagmite caps near some artworks, suggesting painters created makeshift lamps to illuminate their work area.

After the 19th century earthquake, curious tourists strolled inside Cueva de Ardales, located in Málaga, Spain, about 30 miles from the Mediterranean coast. But it took nearly 100 years for researchers to realize the value of its archaeological riches. In 1918, French archaeologist Henri Breuil recognized that the artwork inside the cave was very old, probably dating from the Paleolithic period. Despite this, archaeologists paid little attention to Cueva de Ardales until around 1990, when researchers made a comprehensive inventory of all the rock art in the cave.

Although this latest study sheds more light on the mysterious cavern, there is still an entire section that researchers have yet to investigate, for example. Gizmodo. Hopefully there’s more art — and more information about prehistoric humans, their ancestors, and their creativity — to come.

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