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New dates for old cave art in Spain

Oldest cave art in Europe dates back to at least 40,800 years ago

Scientists have found a cave painting of a red sphere that is about 4,000 years older than the previously known oldest cave art in Europe (from France's Chauvet cave). They determined the date by measuring the decay of uranium atoms in the calcite coating of paintings in 11 Spanish caves, including El Castillo where the red sphere painting was found.

While Neanderthals still survived in Spain at that time, the art also coincides with the spread of Homo sapiens from Asia into Western Europe. Later hand prints from El Castillo that date to about 37,300 years ago are similar in style to later cave art definitely produced by modern humans in the area.

Early human creating cave art. Image courtesy of Karen Carr Studio.