The Nerja Cave Foundation have taken samples from six paintings in the Nerja Caves which could be as at least 42,000 years old. The paintings are of seals and they could have been made by Neanderthals living in the caves.

It is the first time that samples have been taken directly from the paintings, to be dated using uranium-thorium. Previous samples have been taken from the areas around the paintings, which have given an age of between 43,500 and 42,300 years old.

Professor José Luis Sanchidrián from the University of Córdoba , who heads the multidisciplinary research team at the caves, said that the paintings in the gallery could be world’s oldest. However, what would be even more revolutionary is that all the current evidence suggests that these paintings could only have been carried out by Homo Neanderthals, “which is an academic bombshell” according to the Professor. Previously cave paintings were only believed to have been created by Homo Sapiens.

The French Culture Ministry is funding research using uranium thorium dating in different caves in Europe and the Spanish research team has been studying the Nerja caves since 2008.

The technique of uranium-thorium dating is claimed to be very reliable for establishing the age of remains up to 80,000 years old. It allows the analysis of inorganic sediments and consists of collecting samples of the calcite film on the paintings and not the painting itself, thus avoiding damage. The Nerja Caves have a total of 596 pictorial representations, of which around 10 percent are figurative.

Additionally the Nerja Cave Foundation has carried out around 15 to 20 Radiocarbon (AMS) datings of organic remains from the caves – the aim being to corroborate the results of 40 previous AMS datings which placed them between 35,000 and 42,000 years old.

The Nerja Caves paintings have attracted worldwide interest, as they are believed to be the oldest so far discovered.

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