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Primitive Art: Neanderthals Were Europe’s First Painters

Neanderthals died out about 40,000 years ago, soon after direct ancestors arrived in Europe

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Neanderthals
Neanderthal paintings can be seen in a cave in Pasiega, Spain in this photo obtained Feb. 22, 2018. University of Southampton. VOA
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The world’s oldest known cave paintings were made by Neanderthals, not modern humans, suggesting our extinct cousins were far from being uncultured brutes.

A high-tech analysis of cave art at three Spanish sites, published on Thursday, dates the paintings to at least 64,800 years ago, or 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe from Africa.

That makes the cave art much older than previously thought and provides the strongest evidence yet that Neanderthals had the cognitive capacity to understand symbolic representation, a central pillar of human culture.

ALSO READ: French Scientists discover World’s oldest structure built by Neanderthals about 170,000 years ago

Neanderthals
While some archaeologists already viewed Neanderthals as more sophisticated than their commonplace caricature, the evidence until now has been inconclusive. Pixabay

“What we’ve got here is a smoking gun that really overturns the notion that Neanderthals were knuckle-dragging cavemen,” said Alistair Pike, professor of archaeological sciences at the University of Southampton, who co-led the study.

“Painting is something that has always been seen as a very human activity, so if Neanderthals are doing it they are being just like us,” he told Reuters.

With the data from the three Spanish cave sites described in the journal Science, Pike and colleagues believe they finally have rock-solid proof.

The early cave art at La Pasiega, Maltravieso and Ardales includes lines, dots, discs and hand stencils — and creating them would have involved specific skills, such as mixing pigments and selecting appropriate display locations.

The Neanderthals living in the same land that would one day give birth to Diego Velazquez and Pablo Picasso also needed the intellectual ability to think symbolically, like modern humans.

Scientists used a precise dating system based on the radioactive decay of uranium isotopes into thorium to assess the age of the paintings. This involved scraping a few milligrams of calcium carbonate deposit from the paintings for analysis.

A second related study published in Science Advances found that dyed and decorated marine shells from a different Spanish cave also dated back to pre-human times.

Neanderthals
Taken together, the researchers said their work suggested that Neanderthals were “cognitively indistinguishable” from early modern humans. Pixabay

ALSO READ: How About Some Tasty Woolly Rhinoceros for Dinner?

Joao Zilhao of the University of Barcelona said the new findings meant the search for the origins of human cognition needed to go back to the common ancestor of both Neanderthals and modern humans more than 500,000 years ago.

Neanderthals died out about 40,000 years ago, soon after direct ancestors arrived in Europe. It is unclear what killed them off, although theories include an inability to adapt to climate change and increased competition from modern humans.

If they were still alive today, Pike believes they could well have gone on developing complex art and technology.

“If they had been given the time, the resources and the population, then they might have ended up in some version of the world we live in today.” (VOA)

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Exclusive: “Memesis” Depicts my Inner Feelings during the time of Pregnancy : Artist Rajni Sahni

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Rajni with her Paper Pulp Cast work made in 2003. NewsGram

– by Tusheeta Kaushik

July 31, 2017: Curated by Jitendra Padam Jain, an exhibition titled “Memesis” was a solo show of Prints and Painting by artist Rajni Sahni and was conducted at Shridharani Art Gallery at Triveni Kala Sangam from July 11th- 21st in New Delhi. “Memesis”, she says, is a representation of herself and the visual perceptions she had in her mind during the time of pregnancy.

Reporter Tusheeta Kaushik of NewsGram spoke to Rajni Sahni on how different forms of visual arts helped her in expressing her mind s visual perceptions in reality, on how art is such a potent form of creative expression which helps in soothing her mind whenever she s going through different emotions and phases in life and on how her mother found the spark and talent in her when she was a little girl.

Tusheeta: When did you realize your passion for art? When was the first time you expressed yourself through art?

Rajni: I realized my passion for art when I passed my diploma in painting from South Delhi Polytechnic College. There, an art critic appreciated it and then there was no turning back after Santiniketan. I started expressing myself through art when I found an artist in myself and that was during my Santiniketan days.

Tusheeta: Anyone or anything that inspired you to take this art form?

Rajni: As a little girl, I was inspired by my mother since she used to appreciate my work and pushed me to never stop myself from expressing through drawings and sketches. Later, as a student at South Delhi Polytechnic College for Women, Professor Jain Gajera inspired me through his works and teachings.

“Metamorphosis” | Etching on paper | 2011

Tusheeta: How did painting help you or relax you at the time of conceiving?

Rajni: Painting had a huge calming effect on me during my 9-month pregnancy! I had some critical conditions. I was there in a room for 6 months and had difficulty in moving from the bed. So, it was my husband who insisted me a lot on unleashing my pain and emotions through art. I agreed and the depiction of my imagination through the usage of different colours made me calm and composed. That s when I thought of starting a series named “Memesis” which depicts my inner feelings during the time of pregnancy. Etching, Painting, Print Making, Lithography, Paper Pulp Casting and Sculpture making are different forms of visual arts that I have worked on.   

“Saviour” | Etching on Paper | 2012

Tusheeta: You’ve mentioned about the magical relation with your daughter. How and why is it so unique and special to you?

Rajni: (Laughing) My daughter is a big critic of my art work. Her appreciation, criticism, guidance and support matters to me. She herself is great at craft making. She s in class 6th and I m glad that I m close to her and the fact that she likes sharing about her daily routine with me.

“Untitled”| Paper Pulp| 2002

 

“I ll weave my life myself ” | Viscosity on Paper | 2011

Tusheeta: You’ve talked about the complex, yet compassionate and a lovable relationship between a mother and her daughter. How this powerful relationship is depicted in your work?

Rajni: I have made a few art works showcasing my relationship with my daughter. I also have had a powerful relationship with my mother, she s been my pillar and I love my daughter immensely, that s the reason I love to showcase the beauty of a mother and daughter relationship through my art work.

Woman from the lap of woman | Paper pulp and thread on paper| 2002

 

“In the lap of nature”| Etching on Paper | 2011

Tusheeta: So, when do you usually paint and what kind of impact does painting have on you?

Rajni: See, it s not just about me as an artist. Any artist out there doesn’t t really have a regular time schedule for painting. Whenever I feel like painting, I paint. I might work on my art piece for a week then I might work on some other piece after a month. It all depends on my mood and whenever I feel like expressing something. I love painting, it has made me what I m today.

 

– reported by Tusheeta Kaushik of NewsGram. Twitter  @TusheetaKaushik