It’s no Mona Lisa, but a smudged red disk in northern Spain has been crowned the world’s earliest cave painting.
Dated to more than 40,800 years ago, the shape was painted by some of the first modern humans to reach the Iberian Peninsula — or it may have been done by Neanderthals, residents of the Iberian peninsula for more than 200,000 years.
Absolute dating utilizes one or more of a variety of chronometric techniques to produce a computed numerical age, typically with a standard error.
Different researchers have applied a variety of absolute dating methods directly to petroglyphs or to sediments covering them, including AMS (accelerator mass spectrometry) radiocarbon, cation ratio, amino acid racemization, OSL (optically stimulated luminescence), lichenometry, micro-erosion and micro-stratification analysis of patina. These techniques have yielded mixed results in terms of reliability and feasibility, but, in any case, none has been applied to date in Saudi Arabia.
If his team can find cave art that predates the arrival of modern humans in northern Spain, currently pegged at around 42,000 years ago, there can be little doubt that Neanderthals dabbled in art.