Neanderthal Art Found: Last Barrier to Full Human Status Falls
They were strong, skilled hunters, with large brains. They interbred with ‘modern humans.’ But they have always been disparaged because they left no art. Till now.
At CEH, we are not surprised that Neanderthals made art, because they were fully human in our view. Some forms of art, like simple flutes and seashell jewelry, had been known, but all the famous cave paintings had always been attributed to so-called ‘modern humans’ who began leaving artwork in caves about 45,000 Darwin Years ago. Now, Science Magazine is reporting cave drawings 20,000 years earlier (or more) in Spain that could not have been made by modern humans because, according to the consensus evolutionary story, modern humans had not yet migrated into Europe. In the same issue of Science, Andrew Sugden summarizes the discovery:
Hoffmann et al. used uranium-thorium dating of carbonate crusts to show that cave paintings from three different sites in Spain must be older than 64,000 years. These paintings are the oldest dated cave paintings in the world. Importantly, they predate the arrival of modern humans in Europe by at least 20,000 years, which suggests that they must be of Neandertal origin. The cave art comprises mainly red and black paintings and includes representations of various animals, linear signs, geometric shapes, hand stencils, and handprints. Thus, Neandertals possessed a much richer symbolic behavior than previously assumed.
Among the artworks are spray-painted hand prints that look just like ones made by native Americans in the Grand Canyon many tens of thousands of years later in the evolutionary timeline.
The lack of artwork was one of the final holdouts of anthropologists who wanted to keep Neanderthals outside the modern human race. Sure, they had larger brow ridges and more robust features, but so do some people today. Evolutionary notions have carried into the popular culture, equating “Neanderthal” as an epithet for “dumb brute.” We’ve called the evolutionary attitude “historical racism” because Neanderthals were clearly Homo sapiens by the fact that their genes have been found in modern humans. The genetic evidence alone should have been sufficient to bring them into our species, but it also calls into questions the long ages. If Neanderthals were able to interbreed with the newcomers easily after being apart for many tens or hundreds of thousands of years, according to evolutionary story, were those long ages even real? Evolutionary theory would expect mutations to have accumulated to the point of preventing gene flow.
The early dates also falsify a notion that Neanderthals ‘learned’ art from modern humans by imitation. In National Geographic, co-author J. Zilhão welcomes Neanderthals as full members of the human race:
“The conclusion has to be that Neanderthals were cognitively indistinguishable [from Homo sapiens], and the Neanderthal versus sapiens dichotomy is therefore invalid,” argues Zilhão. “Neanderthals were Homo sapiens, too.”
The reactions of reporters show some lingering racism. It’s like watching white supremacists being exposed to evidence that darker races are their equals:
Science Daily: “Soon after the discovery of the first of their fossils in the 19th century, Neanderthals were portrayed as brutish and uncultured, incapable of art and symbolic behaviour, and some of these views persist today. The issue of just how human-like Neanderthals behaved is a hotly debated issue. Our findings will make a significant contribution to that debate.”
BBC News: “Neanderthals were capable of making art. Contrary to the traditional view of them as brutes, it turns out that Neanderthals were artists…. Art was previously thought to be a behaviour unique to our species (Homo sapiens) and far beyond our evolutionary cousins.” Another subsection bears the title, “Knuckle-draggers no more.”
National Geographic: “Long before Picasso, ancient artists in what is now Spain were making creative works of their own, mixing pigments, crafting beads out of seashells, and painting murals on cave walls. The twist? These artistic innovators were probably Neanderthals.”
“Neanderthals appear to have had a cultural competence that was shared by modern humans,” says John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who wasn’t involved with the study. “They were not dumb brutes, they were recognizably human.” …
“If you were to get a hundred representative archaeologists and ask them whether Neanderthals painted caves, 90 percent of them would say no,” says study coauthor Alistair Pike, an archaeologist at the University of Southampton.
New Scientist: “Neanderthals made the oldest cave art in the world. We now know for sure that our extinct Neanderthal cousins were artists who regularly drew on cave walls. The finding implies the capacity to make art may have been inherited from the common ancestor we share with Neanderthals, which lived 500,000 years ago.“
Nature: “The finding suggests that the extinct hominids, once assumed to be intellectually inferior to humans, may have been artists with complex beliefs.” An embedded video (containing the best views of the art, by the way) says that when Neanderthal fossils were first found 150 years ago, the name “Homo stupidus” was suggested.
Paola Villa, an archaeologist who studies Neanderthal culture at the University of Colorado Boulder, says that Neanderthals have an undeserved reputation as moronic brutes. She says that since their bodies were “archaic” in the sense of having features of older hominids — such as heavier bones and pronounced brow ridges — everyone assumed they were “behaviourally archaic” as well. “They were stereotyped as knuckle-dragging dimwits,” she says.
This assumption has fed into theories about their extinction, which have tended to hinge on humans outcompeting slower, dumber Neanderthals. But Villa says a careful review of the research shows “no support for a cognitive gap between Neanderthals and modern humans”.
The Conversation: “How we discovered that Neanderthals could make art.” Chris Standish, a co-author on the paper, says: “One of the key traits of behavioural modernity is the capacity to use, interpret and respond to symbols. We know that Homo sapiens have been doing this for at least 80,000 years. But its predecessor in parts of Eurasia, the Neanderthal, a human ancestor that became extinct around 40,000 years ago, has traditionally been regarded as uncultured and behaviourally inferior. Now our new study, published in Science, has challenged this view by showing that Neanderthals were able to create cave art.”
The cave paintings were found at three separate sites in Spain some 700 km apart, indicating that the practice was widespread and not a fluke. An embedded video at National Geographic shows the scientists struggling through a narrow passage in one cave to see the art, indicating that the artists went to a lot of effort in the dark to make their art pieces. The authors used uranium-thorium dating to conclude they are 20,000 years earlier than the ‘modern’ paintings, such as those at Lascaux and Chauvet. (Note: Many creationists doubt the validity of the dating method used.)
In the same issue of Science, Tim Appenzeller takes the high ground against the historical racists, posturing himself with a ‘we told you so’ attitude. Did he always feel this way back when the consensus looked down on Neanderthals?
For once, the fractious scientists who study the Neandertals agree about something: that a study on p. 912 has dropped a bombshell on their field, by presenting the most persuasive case yet that our vanished cousins had the cognitive capacity to create art. Once seen as brute cavemen, Neandertals have gained stature as examples of sophisticated technology and behavior have turned up in their former territory across Europe. But few researchers imagined them engaging in one of the most haunting practices in human prehistory: creating paintings—vehicles for symbolic expression—in the darkness of caves.
Another bombshell was dropped the same day in Science Advances, the open-access journal of the AAAS. A separate team led by the same D. L. Hoffman reports “Symbolic use of marine shells and mineral pigments by Iberian Neandertals 115,000 years ago.” These evidences of artistic work are twice as old as the cave paintings. The team tries to cling to evolutionary notions by ramping up the perhapsimaybecouldness index:
Given our findings, it is possible that the roots of symbolic material culture may be found among the common ancestor of Neandertals and modern humans, more than half-a-million years ago.
Such a statement, though, ignores the question of the origin of the kind of mind capable of symbolic thinking. Was it a mutation in the brain? Did a genetic mistake somehow ‘switch on’ the first conscious behavior that led to artistic expression? Even if it did, why did it take half a million years for thinking beings to invent all the other contrivances of civilization, when we know these beings were strong, smart, capable of long-distance migration, able to control fire, and skilled at making complex tools?
Despite these findings, evolutionary historical racism continues. The University of Chicago lines up ‘hominid’ skulls to try to show an evolutionary progression over 3 million years. And yet lower down in the article, they admit it’s not a simple progression like the old March of Man icon:
“The conventional wisdom was that our large brains had evolved because of a series of step-like increases each one making our ancestors smarter. Not surprisingly the reality is more complex, with no clear link between brain size and behavior.”
Another piece from MIT News proposes that language evolved as cave art evolved. But later on in the article, one of the researchers admits they are virtually clueless about what happened way back when:
“It’s very difficult to try to understand how human language itself appeared in evolution,” Miyagawa says, noting that “we don’t know 99.9999 percent of what was going on back then.” However, he adds, “There’s this idea that language doesn’t fossilize, and it’s true, but maybe in these artifacts [cave drawings], we can see some of the beginnings of homo sapiens as symbolic beings.”
Bible believers have far more evidence than 0.00001 percent available to the evolutionary paleoanthropologists. They have a record of the first humans in Genesis 1, who were endowed with souls and language from the beginning. They also have a Table of Nations in Genesis 10 that describes in detail how people groups migrated, which compares well with recorded history. Comparing the Bible’s testimony with evidence from fossils and cave art, it’s clear that humans have always been fully human. After 150 years of error from the Darwinians, we should all welcome Neanderthals back into the human race.
Evolutionary dating must be challenged by thinking people. Knowing what people are capable of, it is absurd to imagine human ancestors sitting in caves for half a million years with nothing better to do than eat the same stuff every day. Look how quickly civilization went from village huts to moon shots in just a few thousand years, and from raw meat to gourmet cuisine even faster than that. Look: these papers reveal that evolutionists were wrong in a fantastic way with their insistence that Neanderthals were dumber than ‘modern’ humans. They should be utterly ashamed of themselves and disgraced forever. Why do the media continue to respect these losers? Kick them out and start over.
Recommended Resource: For a critical look at all the “early man” fossils and stories told about them, read the new book Contested Bones by Rupe and Sanford. Fully referenced, this book gives all the evidence that human beings and australopithecines are separated by an unbridgeable gap.