For a long time, scientists believed that the patterns and color of the unusual stone (mineral layers) in the Ardales Cave in Spain were the work of nature. However, studies have shown that the unusual pattern was created by Neanderthals between 45,000 and 65,000 years ago.
The discovered caves played a huge role in the life of some Neanderthal communities, however, what they wanted to show with their "art" is still a mystery.
An international team led by the University of Barcelona analyzed tiny pigment samples taken from stalagmites in the Ardales Cave near the city of Malaga. For a long time, many scientists were convinced that the bizarre color on the walls of the cave appeared due to microbial activity, floods or weathering.
The new analysis showed that the composition and arrangement of the pigments did not correspond to natural processes: the pigments were applied by spraying and blowing. Moreover, their texture did not match natural samples taken from the caves, suggesting that the pigments came from an external source.
More detailed dating showed that the pigments were applied at different points in time, separated by more than ten thousand years. This "confirms the hypothesis that Neanderthals came to these places several times over several thousand years to mark the cave with pigments," the authors of the work note.
Of course, the "art" of the Neanderthals does not look as impressive as the cave paintings of prehistoric intelligent people. However, the new discovery is proof that Neanderthals may have been more intelligent than previously thought.
The authors of the work note that the pigments on the walls of the cave can hardly be called drawings; rather, they are the result of "graphic behavior aimed at perpetuating the symbolic meaning of a certain space."