Cave Known for Its Paintings was Occupied by Humans For 50,000 Year

Cueva de Ardales is one of Europe's most treasured rock art sites.

Cave Known for Its Paintings was Occupied by Humans For 50,000 Year

Cueva de Ardales is one of Europe's most treasured rock art sites. It is not surprising that it has so many paintings. The inhabitants had ample time to practice. New evidence shows that the southern Spanish cave has been a refuge for Neanderthals as well as modern humans for at most 50,000 years.

An analysis of the paint on Cueva de Ardales walls has previously proven that it was created 65,000 years ago. This makes it the oldest cave art anywhere in the world. PLOS One published an archaeological study of the cave that revealed charcoal dating back to more than 58,000 years. Neanderthals were the only human inhabitants of Europe at that time.

Modern humans arrived in the area around 30,000 years ago. However, the dig also found many relics from the period after that. Modern humans used the cave to bury their loved ones up until the Copper Age, which occurred around 7,000 years ago.

This was not an example of houses replacing caves as shelter from the elements. The paper's authors, Dr Jose Ramos-Munoz of University of Cadiz, argue that the Cueva de Ardales was not a campsite but was used primarily for non-domestic purposes, such as the production of rock art and the burial of the deceased.

It was symbolic in nature and offers one of the best opportunities to study prehistoric European culture. There are tools that indicate that people camped nearby a spring.

Cueva de Ardales walls are home to over 1,000 engravings and paintings. Near the entrance are abstract red finger marks, hand stencils and hand stencils. The interior contains more recent engravings and paintings of animals. Although the paintings are difficult to date, uranium/thorium analysis has shown that some of them were created in Neanderthal times. Many objects have been discovered over seven years by digging close to the cave's entrance. Their age can be determined from the sedimentary layers where they are located.

The site is rich in charcoal, and many scattered bones and teeth were found. The bones of other animals from the site reveal that they were eaten there as food or ritual sacrifices. Some tools found in the cave may have been made there.

The cave's entrance was sealed by a landslide in the last 4,000-years. It had been unvisited since its discovery in 1821. Some charcoal is believed to be from the 16th and 17th centuries. A fragment of partially calcified rope with a similar age was found on a rock platform. This confirms that humans used climbing equipment to reach the cave's landslide.

Cueva de Ardales is a popular destination for archaeologists. The majority of the cave's floor has not yet been excavated. The authors wrote that they chose to excavate the entrance due to large areas that were sealed with thick flowstone formations, which protected the sediments beneath from any future intrusions. However, there are many more things to be done. This could prove that the 7,000-year gap between 43,000 and 36,000 years ago, in which no evidence of human presence was found, supports the hypothesis that humans were not present in southern Iberia at that time.

The paper refers to the Cueva de Ardales as "The most extraordinary cave with Paleolithic rocks art in southern Iberia." However, it is far from the only one. There are thirty others, plus many more in northern Spain.