Oldest art even older

May 24, 2012
Image: University of Tübingen

New dates from Geißenklösterle Cave in Southwest Germany document the early arrival of modern humans and early appearance of art and music.

Researchers from Oxford and Tübingen have published new radiocarbon dates from the from Geißenklösterle Cave in Swabian Jura of Southwestern Germany in the Journal of Human Evolution. The new dates use improved methods to remove contamination and produced ages between began between 42,000 – 43,000 years ago for start of the Aurignacian, the first culture to produce a wide range of figurative , music and other key innovations as postulated in the Kulturpumpe Hypothesis. The full spectrum of these innovations were established in the region no later than 40 000 years ago.

These are the earliest radiocarbon dates of Aurignacian deposits, and they predate Aurignacian dates from Italy, France, England and other regions. These results are consistent with the Danube Corridor hypothesis postulating that migrated to Europe and rapidly moved up the Danube drainage. Geißenklösterle Cave is one of several caves in the Swabian Jura that have produced important examples of personal ornaments, figurative art, mythical imagery and musical instruments. The new dates from Geißenklösterle together with existing dates using thermoluminescence confirm the great antiquity of the Swabian Aurignacian.

The new dates indicate that modern humans entered the Upper Danube region prior to an extremely cold climatic phase referred to as the H4 event dating to ca. 40 000 years ago. Previously, researchers had argued that modern humans initially migrated up the Danube immediately following the H4 event. As it now looks modern humans entered southwestern Germany during a mild phase of the last Ice Age, under climactic conditions, which should have been inhabitable by indigenous populations of Neanderthals. Despite a major effort to identify archaeological signatures of interaction between Neanderthals and modern humans, researchers have yet to identify indications of cultural contact between these groups in Upper Danube region.

These results point to the Upper Danube Valley as a plausible homeland for the Aurignacian, with the Swabian caves producing the earliest record of technological and artistic innovations that are characteristic of the this period. Whether the many innovations best documented in Swabia were stimulated by climatic stress, competition between modern humans and Neanderthals or by other social-cultural dynamics remains a central focus of research by the archaeologists from Tübingen and Oxford. High-resolution dating of the kind reported here is essential for establishing a reliable the chronology for testing hypothesis to explain the expansion of modern humans into Europe, the processes that led to a wide range of cultural innovations including the advent of figurative art and music, and the extinction of Neanderthals.

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User comments : 10

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gmurphy
5 / 5 (1) May 25, 2012
I love these types of articles, whenever creationism zealots knock on my door suggesting that evolution is 'only a theory' or that world is about 6000 years old, I whip out my smartphone and show them articles like this. After expounding about the vast body of evidence for early humanity, I invite them to come back with evidence of their own which contradicts these findings, that's enough to ensure they'll never come back :)
Mikegyver
1.5 / 5 (8) May 25, 2012
Gmurphy, this has nothing to do with creationism. Creationism means that there was a creator, not that the earth is 6,000 years old and we just were zapped into existence. God still exists in the evolution theory. Btw, (macro) evolution is still a theory, which is sort of pointed out by this article. In comparison with modern times, it shows that humans were doing the exact same things 40,000 years ago when evolution would predict us walking around hunched over, beating our chests and grunting.
flashgordon
1 / 5 (1) May 25, 2012
creationism like all supernatural religion is always whatever it needs to be at a given time; they're always making up religion right in your face;
Calenur
not rated yet May 25, 2012
Btw, (macro) evolution is still a theory, which is sort of pointed out by this article.


You clearly have no idea what the definition of theory is in science. The Christian god doesn't exist in any theory or reality.
Mikegyver
1 / 5 (3) May 25, 2012
I'm not saying God is part of the evolutionary theory, but it certainly doesn't go against God in any way. And yes, God does exist in reality.

Religion isn't God, it is man's interpretation of God, which can have errors. Yes, it can be whatever it needs to be to some people at any time, but so can science.
ryggesogn2
2 / 5 (4) May 25, 2012
Anther way to look at this story is to demonstrate the failure of science.
Anyone who asserts that the current understanding of anything is not subject to revision is just as dogmatic as the 'creationists' they condemn.
"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
Max Planck "
So often on 'science' sites, the latest discovery is proclaimed as absolute knowledge with no disagreement permitted.
Humility is a lost trait in modern science.
TS1
1 / 5 (1) May 27, 2012
@Mikegyver "Creationism means that there was a creator, not that the earth is 6,000 years old and we just were zapped into existence."

Well some creationists think that earth is just 6000 years old, not sure if the door-knocking ones do that though? I read long time ago somewhere that ancient Hebrews had a tradition that each day was 7000 years old. Sort of made me think of the Mayans when I read about their calculations about their epocs (and no, I do not believe in that 2012 stuff).

So as to what ryggesogn2 says I think that well of course none of us was present back when life got its start on earth. So anything we choose to believe in is a belief choice in the end. We just make our choices for different reasons and we have to accept that our beliefs could be wrong.

Otherwise we risk becoming the fanatics we condemn.
Nyloc
not rated yet May 28, 2012
These archeological findings further support the major distinctions between our species and Neandertals. Our direct ancestors were wanderers and inventors while Neandertals stayed in Europe and made hardly any changes to their tools.

Furthermore, our ancestors mixed with other tribes and exchanged innovations, resulting in a 'snowball' of technological and cultural changes.

That said, Neandertal DNA was a welcome addition to the Eurasian gene-pool during harsh ice age conditions. I eagerly await further genetic revelations to reveal what other traits came along for the ride. My guess is that our African progenitors lack the wanderlust that drove migrations to the farthest corners of the earth.
Birger
not rated yet May 28, 2012
Nyloc
Actually, Homo Erectus overcame the geographic obstacles to migration outside Africa long before we did.

The obstacles to anatomically modern humans were not just physical, the local climates (drought, desert) would also have deterred migration. Once migration became a practical option, anatomically modern humans were out of Africa and moving on.

Also, the article is a triumph of modern refinements of dating technologies.
Origin
1 / 5 (1) May 28, 2012
Oldest flutes: 43.000 years old unearthed in German cave. It seems, all artefacts come from the very same period.