We humans like to think of ourselves as unique creatures that do all sorts of neat tricks other species can’t manage. But Alistair Pike, a British archaeologist, says his new method of dating cave paintings shows that Neanderthals, not humans, could have created some of the earliest art.
Granted, it’s just a bunch of red dots. But if Pike is right, we can add art to the growing list of accomplishments that humans cannot take sole credit for:
- Music: Neanderthals definitely got the jump on that one.
- Mourning: Elephants do it, too.
- Tools: Crows, chimps, sea otters, octopi — who isn’t in on the tool game?
Pike found that the drawings were made at least 40,800 years ago, just as humans were making their way to the Iberian peninsula. If they’re older than that minimum age, they’re almost certainly by Neanderthal artistes. Other archeologists are still ready to believe the painting were human-made, though, as NPR reported:
wonders why Neanderthals waited until about the time humans arrived to get the itch to paint.
“OK, Neanderthals had been there for 300,000 years, and they’re not doing this,” Shipman says. “If they are not doing it before, why would they suddenly start doing it at that point?”
Hey, no one can control when inspiration strikes.