The first rock engraving attributed to a neanderthal was found in Gibraltar

This evidence confirms the ability of this species to abstract expression


The study on the identified rock engraving in Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar  has confirmed that the imprint of the artistic lines observed was most probably made intentionally ​​by neanderthals, which confirms the ability of this species to abstract expression. The finding is presented in a scientific article on Monday September 1st by the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). Among the signatories is the archaeologist Jordi Rosell, IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social) researcher.

Until now, the discoveries of rock art had been attributed only to modern humans, who arrived in Western Europe around 40,000 years ago. Instead, the team of Gibraltar, which works with the IPHES, has found an engraving covered by a sediments where previously artifacts, made ​​by neanderthals around 39,000 years ago, have been discovered (mousterian flakes and cores), what suggest that is prior to this date.

The engraving is covered by a mineral crust, whose chemical analysis demonstrate that was formed before the burial. Researchers took microphotographs of the grooves edges and after comparing them with those obtained with experimental techniques, determined that were made with stone tools, confirming the intentionality of these artistic lines.

Thus, these results suggest that the abstract model adds another evidence, such as the use of pigments and an intentional burial, whereby perhaps before the intellectual capacity of neanderthals was underestimated, according to the authors.

Bibliographic reference

Article # 14-11529: “A rock engraving made ​​by Neanderthals in Gibraltar,” by Joaquín Rodríguez-Vidal et al.