The oldest dot

Paintings>> History • Spain

Published: Monday 30 November -0001

Bison in the great hall of policromes of Altamira cavesThe red dots, hand stencils and animal figures found on some of the cave walls of Spain, including the World Heritage sites of Altamira, El Castillo and Tito Bustillo, could be the oldest cave art in Europe. The cave arts have long been recognised for their antiquity. But researchers have now used refined dating techniques to get an accurate determination of their ages. One motif, a faint red dot in El Castillo, is said to be over 40,000 years old and is thus Europe's oldest cave art.

Alistair Pike from Bristol University, the UK, and the lead author of the paper published in Science, says the hand stencils that are formed by blowing paint against the hands pressed against the cave wall date older than 37,300 years. Some of the paintings are 41,000 years old and coincide with the first known immigration of modern humans to Europe.

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