A rock engraving made by Neanderthals in Gibraltar.

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Rodríguez-Vidal, Joaquín; D'Errico, Francesco; Giles Pacheco, Francisco; Blasco, Ruth; Rosell, Jordi; Jennings, Richard P; Queffelec, Alain; Finlayson, Geraldine; Fa, Darren A; Gutiérrez López, José María; Carrión, José S; Negro, Juan José; Finlayson, Stewart; Cáceres, Luís M; Bernal, Marco A; Fernández Jiménez, Santiago; Finlayson, Clive
Year of Publication: 2014
Journal: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Volume: 111
Issue: 37
Pagination: 13301-6
Date Published: 2014 Sep 16
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1091-6490
Keywords: Animals, Caves, Engraving and Engravings, Geologic Sediments, Gibraltar, Humans, Imaging, Three-Dimensional, Neanderthals, Weather

The production of purposely made painted or engraved designs on cave walls--a means of recording and transmitting symbolic codes in a durable manner--is recognized as a major cognitive step in human evolution. Considered exclusive to modern humans, this behavior has been used to argue in favor of significant cognitive differences between our direct ancestors and contemporary archaic hominins, including the Neanderthals. Here we present the first known example of an abstract pattern engraved by Neanderthals, from Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar. It consists of a deeply impressed cross-hatching carved into the bedrock of the cave that has remained covered by an undisturbed archaeological level containing Mousterian artifacts made by Neanderthals and is older than 39 cal kyr BP. Geochemical analysis of the epigenetic coating over the engravings and experimental replication show that the engraving was made before accumulation of the archaeological layers, and that most of the lines composing the design were made by repeatedly and carefully passing a pointed lithic tool into the grooves, excluding the possibility of an unintentional or utilitarian origin (e.g., food or fur processing). This discovery demonstrates the capacity of the Neanderthals for abstract thought and expression through the use of geometric forms.

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1411529111
Alternate Journal: Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
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