Age of Spanish Cave Art Questioned by French Archaeologist

June 25, 2012 / Spain, Europe
Art in Spain's El Castillo Cave is Over 40,800 years Old

Photo by Pedro Saura

A prominent French researcher has cautioned that the cave paintings in Spain need to need to be analyzed further before they can be confirmed as the oldest known examples in the world.

Researchers studying cave art in Northern Spain have dated the artwork in El Castillo Cave to at least 40,800 years old, making them the oldest known examples.

Jean Clottes, an archaeologist who worked on dating the Chauvet cave art in 1998, believes that the new method used to date the works needs to be thoroughly be tested and refined to positively confirm its accuracy.

Instead of the using radiocarbon dating to find out the age of the paintings, the international team of scientists dated the thin calcite cave formations that developed on top of the art using a process called uranium-series disequilibrium. In contrast with radiocarbon dating, uranium-series disequilibrium measures the radioactive decay of uranium.

According to Clottes, the two methods have arrived at conflicting dates in the past. To confirm the accuracy, the artwork would have to be dated with both methods to see if they concur.

Unfortunately for the researchers of the study, the reason Uranium-thorium was used in the first place was because radiocarbon dating was not possible due to the lack of organic matter.

Altamira symbols up to 40,000 years old? [Bradshaw Foundation] & Spanish Cave Paintings’ Age Questioned By Archaeologist [Bloomberg]

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