This article is from
Creation 35(2):20–21, April 2013

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Neandertal paintings ‘bombshell’



The radiocarbon ‘dating’ of charcoal remains from ancient fires inside Spain’s famous Nerja caves as being around 43,000 years old has sparked debate among paleo-anthropologists. That’s because the charcoal remains were found beside six cave paintings, and presumably of the same age. However, 43,000 years by evolutionary reckoning is ‘too old’ for such paintings. Neandertals are presumed to have lived back then, without any ‘modern humans’ around. This is the first time that cave art has been linked to Neandertals.1

José Luis Sanchidrián of the University of Cordóba, Spain, says that the paintings depict the seals that the people hunted and have “no parallel in Palaeolithic art”. He describes such images painted by Neandertals as an “academic bombshell”, because all other cave paintings are thought to have been produced by what they call ‘modern’ humans.

The wariness of evolutionary researchers to this announcement is understandable, given that until recently, Neandertals were thought to have been incapable of creating artistic works.2 But increasingly, more researchers are coming to the view that Neandertals had the same capabilities for symbolism, imagination and creativity as modern humans.

This latest report would make the Nerja seal paintings “substantially older” than the Chauvet cave paintings in France, which had been carbon-‘dated’ to 30,000 years old, and until now regarded as the earliest examples of Palaeolithic cave art.

However, other researchers, such as Paul Pettitt at the University of Sheffield, UK, warn that the Nerja paintings themselves need to be ‘dated’, to see if the ‘age’ of the pigment matches the age assigned to the ancient fireplace alongside. Pettitt cautions that the dating of cave art is fraught with potential problems. “Even some sites we think we understand very well such as the Grotte Chauvet in France are very problematic in terms of how old they are,” he says.

Indeed, controversy still rages over the dating of the Chauvet paintings today, because “such sophisticated artwork” could not have appeared that long ago, according to evolutionary theories about human artistic expression.3 Thus the ‘dating’ must be wrong, say many evolutionary archaeologists.

Actually, we would agree with that. The only way that something can be definitively dated is by reference to a reliable eyewitness account. The Bible is exactly that, from which we see that the paintings at both Nerja and Chauvet must be younger than about 4,500 years, i.e. they were painted sometime since the global Flood occurred.4 And it’s no surprise that cave artwork can be ‘sophisticated’, because man has always been imaginative and creative—created in the very image of our Creator God Himself.

Posted on homepage: 26 May 2014

References and notes

  1. MacErlean, F., First Neanderthal cave paintings discovered in Spain, www.newscientist.com, 10 February 2012. Return to text.
  2. Carter, R., The painted Neandertal, creation.com/the-painted-neandertal, 20 May 2010. Return to text.
  3. Catchpoole, D., Chauvet Cave controversy, Creation 31(2):35, 2009; creation.com/chauvet-cave. Return to text.
  4. In fact, after the confusion of language (Genesis 11:1–9; see also Genesis 10:25). Neandertals are post-Babel humans with features that were adaptations to the post-Flood Ice Age. Return to text.