Neanderthals, long thought to be less evolved members of the Homo sapiens family, turn out to be far more creative and abstract than we thought. A recent study by a team of scientists led by Jean-Claude Marquet of France’s Université de Tours has uncovered the oldest intentional markings created by Neanderthals. These discoveries were made in La Roche-Cotard cave in central France and represent striking examples of Neanderthal abstract design.
La Roche-Cotard Cave has been a treasure trove for scientists, providing them with a unique opportunity to study the life and work of Neanderthals. The cave was sealed by sediment 51,000 years ago, 6,000 years before Homo sapiens arrived in Western Europe. It was rediscovered in 1846 and has been the subject of constant study by researchers ever since. According to recent studies, Neanderthals were the only inhabitants of the cave, with the exception of lions, bears and hyenas.
For the study, scientists used photogrammetry to create three-dimensional models of the cave walls. They found that Neanderthal used their fingers to rake the clay surface and create markings on eight sections of the walls.
One of the most impressive findings is an engraving of a triangle near the cave entrance. The Neanderthal carved the two sides of the triangle into the bottom of the clay surface, creating a raised shape. He also took into account the shape of the wall and slowed the movement of his fingers as he approached the top of the triangle to create the decisive end of the line. These marks are a prime example of Neanderthal abstract design.
In addition to the triangle, the scientists also found other interesting markings on the walls of the cave. One of the panels created an oval shape, while another had a wavy central axis with smaller markings around it. All these discoveries suggest that Neanderthals were not only technically proficient, but also had a sense of beauty and the ability to think abstractly.
While the new study does not answer questions about the significance of these markings, it does confirm the artistic intentionality of Neanderthals. Jean-Claude Marquet notes that this discovery was only possible thanks to a long period of research and finding solutions for accurate dating and environmental studies.
Neanderthals, long thought to be less evolved and primitive, turn out to be much more creative and abstract than we had assumed. This discovery changes the way we think about Neanderthals and allows us to look at them in a completely different way.