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Are Marks in Gorham Cave Neanderthal Art?

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


GIBRALTAR—A team led by Clive Finlayson, director of the heritage division of the Gibraltar Museum, claims that etchings discovered on a table-like rock outcropping in Gorham’s Cave were scratched by Neanderthals more than 39,000 years ago. The marks, which were covered with sediments that contained stone tools typical of those made by Neanderthals between 30,000 and 39,000 years ago, are up to a few millimeters deep and cover an area about the size of a Frisbee. Testing revealed that carving the engravings would have taken purposeful, repeated motions with Neanderthal tools. “Is it art? I don’t know. I can’t get into the minds of these people. It looks geometric. It looks like criss-cross patterning. What is clear is that it’s abstract, it’s deliberate, and it speaks to their cognition in a way that brings Neanderthals, once again, closer to us,” Finlayson told Nature. To read about paintings in Spain some scholars consider the work of Neanderthals, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Neanderthal?"