A study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE has provided evidence to date the age and origin of engravings discovered on a cave wall in France.
Conducted by a team of researchers led by Jean-Claude Marquet from the University of Tours, France, the study confirms that these engravings were undeniably crafted by Neanderthals, making them the oldest known examples of such artistic expressions attributed to this ancient human species.
Advancements in scientific research in recent years have provided valuable insights into the intricate cultural world of Neanderthals. However, the realm of symbolic and artistic expression remains largely unexplored.
While only a small number of symbolic artifacts have been associated with Neanderthals, their meanings and significance continue to be subjects of ongoing scholarly discussions. Addressing this knowledge gap, Marquet and colleagues have made a significant breakthrough in their study, unveiling ancient engravings found on a cave wall in France as the earliest known manifestations of artistic expression by Neanderthals.
The cave, known as La Roche-Cotard, in the Centre-Val de Loire of France, contains a series of non-figurative markings on the wall that are interpreted as finger-flutings (marks made by human hands).
The researchers made a plotting analysis and used photogrammetry to create 3D models of these markings, comparing them with known and experimental human markings. Based on the shape, spacing, and arrangement of these engravings, the team concluded that they are deliberate, organized and intentional shapes created by human hands.
To establish a comprehensive understanding of the cave’s history, the research team went beyond the artistic aspects and conducted optically-stimulated luminescence dating on cave sediments.
The results unveiled a significant event occurring approximately 57,000 years ago when the cave was effectively sealed off by sediment accumulation, predating the establishment of Homo sapiens in the region.
This temporal context, coupled with the exclusive presence of Mousterian stone tools within the cave—technology closely associated with Neanderthals—constitutes robust evidence firmly establishing the Neanderthals as the creators behind these engravings.
The presence of enigmatic non-figurative symbols within La Roche-Cotard cave presents a captivating mystery regarding their intended meaning. However, their temporal correlation with cave engravings produced by Homo sapiens in various global locales adds another layer of intrigue. This growing body of evidence points towards a rich tapestry of behaviors and activities exhibited by Neanderthals, underscoring their remarkable complexity and diversity, which parallels the creative endeavors witnessed in our own human ancestors.
Header Image Credit : Jean-Claude Marquet, CC-BY 4.0
Early medieval carved stone of a warrior figure found in Glasgow
Archaeologists excavating the grounds of Govan Old Church in Glasgow, England, have discovered an early medieval carved stone figure dubbed the “Govan Warrior”.
Govan Old Church is the home of the Govan Stone Museum, a collection of early medieval and Viking-Age sculptures found in the grounds, including 30 sculptures from a lost kingdom of Old Welsh-speaking Britons known as the Ystrad Clud who dominated the Clyde valley from the 5th to 11th centuries AD.
Excavations have been conducted by the University of Glasgow and Clyde Archaeology, in which a carved stone of a warrior was uncovered during a community fun day organised as part of the Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival.
The carved stone depicts a man standing side on and carrying a round shield and a shaft. According to the researchers, the discovery dates from around 1,000-years-ago and is unlike any of the other carved stones found at Govan Old.
According to a press statement by the University of Glasgow: “The Govan Warrior is unique within the existing collection due to its stylistic characteristics, which has drawn parallels with Pictish art and carvings from the Isle of Man. Unlike the other stones in the Govan collection, whose chunky style of carving is so distinctive that it has been described as a school of carving in its own right (the ‘Govan School’), the Govan Warrior is lightly incised, which may bring parallels with famous Pictish stones like the Rhynie Man from Aberdeenshire.”
Professor Stephen Driscoll said: “It’s a style that makes us think both about the Pictish world and also about the Isle of Man and it’s interesting that we are halfway between these two places. Govan is the ideal place for these two artistic traditions or styles to come together.”
Header Image Credit : Govan Heritage Trust
Iron Age port discovered on Baltic Sea island of Gotska Sandön
An excavation project, in collaboration with archaeologists from Södertörn University, Uppsala University’s Campus Gotland, Gotland Museum, and the Swedish National Heritage Board, has led to the discovery of an Iron Age port on Gotska Sandön.
Gotska Sandön is an island and national park in Sweden’s Gotland County, situated 24 miles north of Faro in the Baltic Sea.
Earlier in 2023, archaeologists found two 2,000-year-old Roman coins on one of the island’s beaches. Both coins are made of silver, with one coin dating from AD 98-117 during the reign of Emperor Trajan, and the other coin dating from AD 138-161 during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius
In the latest excavations, archaeologists have now discovered evidence of twenty hearths on the same beach as the Roman coins discovery.
According to Johan Rönnby, a professor of marine archaeology at Södertörn University, the site is an Iron Age port, not in the sense of quays we imply in the modern era, but instead a place where Iron Age people regularly landed their boats and formed an encampment.
Although the purpose of the encampment is speculated, the researchers suggest that it may have been linked to an emerging seal hunting industry.
“Seal hunters may have come from the island of Gotland and landed on Sandön to boil seal blubber. This could have been what the hearths were used for, but we don’t yet know – there may be other reasons why the site looks like it does, such as it being a trading post,” said Rönnby.
Excavations and carbon-14 dating of one of the hearths has indicated that they also date from 2,000-years-ago, suggesting a possible link between the encampment and the Roman coins.
Header Image Credit : idw
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