Ancient cave drawings in Spain reveal Europe-wide artistic style existed 25,000 years ago

Theresa Braine, New York Daily News
·2 min read

Ancient cave drawings in Spain bear striking resemblance to styles throughout Europe as far back as 25,000 years ago, according to a new paper.

Researchers scrutinizing the engravings, mostly of bison, found a distinct style suggesting that region was more connected than archaeologists had previously thought.

“The study analyses the particularities of Palaeolithic animal engravings found in the Aitzbitarte Caves (Basque Country, Spain) in 2016,” said the research team led by Diego Garate of the Instituto Internacional de Investigaciones Prehistóricas de Cantabria, Spain, in a statement. “These prehistoric images, mainly depicting bison, were drawn in a way that has never before been seen in northern Spain; in a kind of fashion in the way of drawing the engravings that is more characteristic of southern France and some parts of the Mediterranean. The study has shown the close regional relationships in Western Europe cave art since very early times, at least, 25,000 years ago.”

The paper was published Wednesday in the online journal PLoS One.

The artwork bore specific characteristics that had not been seen before in Palaeolithic art of the northern Iberian Peninsula, the researchers said, but that had parallels in caves in southern France.

“All of them share very specific graphic conventions that correspond to human occupations assigned basically to the Gravettian cultural complex,” the study abstract noted, referencing paleolithic hunter-gatherers who lived during the Old Late Stone Age and flourished from around 29,000 to 22,000 B.C., according to History Files UK.

The discovery shows not only a higher level of artistry in that region than was originally assumed but also that the Iberian peninsula was not as culturally isolated as had been thought.

“The updated data reveals a greater complexity in artistic expression during the Gravettian that had not been considered so far, and also challenges the traditional isolation that had been granted to Cantabrian symbolic expressions during pre-Magdalenian times,” the authors said.

The study was done on three instances of rock art discovered in 2015 in three caves in Aitzbitarte Hill in northern Spain bearing an artistic style previously unknown in the region.

The engravings depicted bison with the horns and legs rendered without proper perspective, the pairs of limbs drawn as a “double Y” and the horns drawn side by side, the researchers said.

It was, to their surprise, consistent with the Gravettian artistic style. That culture had specific customs in art, tools and burial practices.

“This culture is known from across Europe but has not been seen before on the Iberian Peninsula,” the authors said.

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