A new scientific study has shown that red markings found on a stalagmite dome in the Cueva de Ardales cave system in the Andalucian province of Malaga were created by Neanderthals around 65,000 years ago.
The research team drawn from the University of Cadiz, as well as the Neanderthal Museum of Germany, published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) showing that the red staining was applied to the dome about 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe.
An earlier study attributing the markings to Neanderthals has been disputed with experts saying that the Cueva de Ardales occurred naturally.
However the new findings show that the pigments used came from an external source. Furthermore the composition and placement of the pigments were not consistent with natural processes—instead, the pigments were applied through splattering and blowing.
More detailed dating showed that the pigments were applied at different points in time, separated by more than ten thousand years.
The study shows that the Palaeolithic artwork, must have been made by Neanderthals, as they were Europe’s sole human inhabitants at the time.
It is believed that cave formations “played a fundamental role in the symbolic systems of Neanderthal communities.”
The site in the Cueva de Ardales, was discovered in 1821 after a concealed entrance was exposed following an earthquake.
In 2014, experts found a Neanderthal engraving found in a cave inside the rock of Gibraltar.
The latest finds joins other cave art found in locations in Spain including those of Caceres and Cantabria.