By Natural Philosopher Mike Prestwood
Timeline Story

Neanderthal Art: Symbolic Thought

Neanderthal Art: Symbolic Thought

Absolute Years From Now: -64000
Story Reference Date: 03/30/2024

It’s clear: neanderthals created art. The discovery of cave paintings in Spain, dated to over 64,000 years ago, marked a profound shift in our understanding of Neanderthals. Found in sites such as La Pasiega, Maltravieso, and Ardales, these artworks — comprising abstract symbols, geometric patterns, and hand stencils — are attributed to Neanderthals, predating the arrival of Homo sapiens in Europe. This corrected the longstanding perception that Neanderthals lacked symbolic thought and artistic expression.

The presence of these ancient artworks, along with evidence of personal ornaments like decorated shells, suggests that Neanderthals engaged in behaviors once thought exclusive to modern humans. This includes the creation of art and the use of symbolic communication, indicating a level of cognitive sophistication and cultural complexity previously unrecognized. These findings not only expand our understanding of Neanderthal capabilities but also blur the lines between them and our own ancestors, highlighting a shared capacity for creativity and symbolic thinking in the human lineage.

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