Neanderthal cave art discovered in Gibraltar has revealed a new side to the extinct human species, researchers believe. The cave art contradicts previous theories of Neanderthal intelligence, instead portraying them as more intellectually proficient and conceptual in their thinking. The criss-crossing lines were found to be very similar to abstract art created by modern humans.
The report of the findings was announced on Sep. 1. The cave carving is believed to be the first discovery of Neanderthal art, though previous art has been linked to the Neanderthals. Currently the matter is in dispute, but the Gibraltar cave art is the first undisputed discovery.
In the media, the Neanderthal has been cast as a cave man, a half-man, half-apish creature lacking in critical thinking skills and general smarts, and possessing only a rudimentary ability to make tools. The research, however ,suggests that they were instead in possession of a culture and way of life remarkably similar to that of modern humans. They had families, buried their dead and wore clothing and colorful pigments. The new Neanderthal art now reveals a potentially more in-depth side of their culture, abilities, and awareness of the world around them.
What is believed to be a cross-hatching pattern was represented in the eight lines used in the carving–cross-hatching being a technique taught in art schools as one of the foundations of art. Utilized to create shading and depth, cross-hatching creates an illusion of light and shadow in an art piece, providing it with a feeling of density and “realness.” The carving is too deliberate in its style for it to have been carved by accident, as it would have required a conscious effort with a tool as well as some time to etch into the cave wall.
The presence of cross-hatching is a sign that the Neanderthal people had an advanced understanding of art, comprehending it at a higher level than mere childish scribbles or simple recreations of the physical world around them. The discovery of the cave art reveals more evidence of Neanderthals as advanced humans. “[T]he ability for abstract thought was not exclusive” to modern man, reports Clive Finlayson, an anthropologist and director of the Gibraltar Museum, along with fellow colleagues.
The new reveal follows another recent discovery of Neanderthal life in Italy, where researchers unearthed Neanderthal homes and found them surprisingly similar to the homes of modern-day man. According to the study, Neanderthal man strategically placed their fires for maximum dispersal of warmth, separated their sleeping places from other spaces in the home, and had an area specifically for the preparation of animal carcasses that wouldn’t affect other parts of the cave.
The discovery of the cave art will likely change beliefs drastically in the future concerning Neanderthal studies. According to Riel-Salvatore, who has a Ph.D in archaeology, people “tend to have this idea of Neanderthals as these stereotypical cavemen,” he said. He contended that the more researchers learn about Neanderthals, the fewer known differences there will be between these bygone humans and modern-day man.
By Jillian M. Moyet