Carbon dating cave paintings
Indeed, Altamira's artists are renowned for how they used the natural contours of the cave to make their animal figures seem extra-real.The actual subterranean complex itself consists of a 270-metre long series of twisting passages ranging from 2-6 metres (about 7-20 feet) in height, in which more than 100 animal figures are depicted.The new and the old dates fall on either side of the accepted date of 28 to 30,000 years ago for Neanderthal extinction.Since the dates established by carbon-14 for the paintings at Lascaux and Altamira occurred after the the remnant Neanderthals became extinct, it follows the cave paintings were created by our ancestors.If, on the other hand, the earlier dates of 38,000 to 40,000 years determined by Pike and his team are accepted the Neanderthals could have been the cave painters.It is believed the first anatomically modern humans from Africa entered Europe and encountered resident Neanderthal populations around 45,000 years ago.last week two intriguing possibilities: the famous cave paintings in France and Spain may be as much as 15,000 years older than previously established; Neanderthals may have been cave painters as well as were the anatomically modern humans who replaced them.A team led by Alistair Pike of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom sought to confirm previously assigned dates or establish new dates for cave paintings by applying uranium series analysis of calcium carbonate deposits overlaying or underlaying paints applied to cave walls.
It is one of seventeen such caves unearthed along the mountains of North Spain near the Atlantic coast, on the main migratory route from the Middle East, which followed the North African coast, crossed the sea at Gibraltar and led through Spain into France.
Determining the ages of cave paintings—from the hands in the Panel de las Manos in El Castillo to the mammoths and other Ice Age beasts that adorn the walls of Chauvet in France—has proved a difficult thing to do.
Scientists can reliably assess the antiquity of human and animal bones as well as charcoal from hearths using proven techniques such as radiocarbon dating.
This dating method, which is based on the radioactive decay of uranium over time, has been around for decades.
But only recently have scientists refined the technique such that they can apply it to samples small enough to get sufficiently precise results.
A 'panel' of hand stencils is shown in the El Castillo Cave in Spain.