Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Earliest Known Cave Painting In Central Europe

It is a popular theory that many cave paintings were made by early hunter gathers, as they huddled in caves, tucked away in the French and Spanish hills away from the freezing temperatures of ice age Europe, simply to pass the time. Many fantastic murals have been found all across western Europe, with a wide range of depictions, from four metre long bulls to simple hand prints. What is rather interesting is that geochemical evidence has shown that there is a distinct correlation between cave paintings and the climate in the region.

The 15,000 year old, Hohle Fels Cave art
The 'warmer' the climate, the more cave paintings archaeologists find. Cave paintings are common in western Europe as the climate was distinctly warmer than the rest of Europe, Asia and America due to the Gulf Stream. Yet central and eastern Europe is completely devoid of palaeolithic cave art due to the colder temperatures.

No ice age cave art has ever been found in regions such as Germany or Poland....until now. Pieces of rock daubed with red ochre have been discovered at the world famous Hohle Fels cave in south east Germany. The cave has yielded many fantastic and developmental finds such as early statuettes and musical instruments. The new finds were excavated recently by an archaeological team from the University of Tubingen. It was immediately apparent that they had found something special.

Radiocarbon dating gave an approximate age of 15,000 years old, making them the most ancient cave art from central Europe. The artefacts in question were three pieces of yellow limestone, covered in regular rows composed of dots of red ochre. As the art is abstract, we cannot be sure why it was made, what it referred to or whether it was for religious or recreational purposes. Yet the rocks do show that the people of the Swabian Alb (where Hohle Fels is located) were living a far better lifestyle than we gave them credit for.