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Physics color commentator Rob Sheldon disputes UD News’s view of Neanderthals


A dispute developed recently over whether some Iberian cave paintings were done by Neanderthals or not. We reflexively bet on the Neanderthals but Rob Sheldon writes to say:

I read the Archeology article, which linked me to a Science News article that had 3 citations: R. White et alStill no archaeological evidence that Neanderthals created Iberian cave artJournal of Human Evolution. Published October 21, 2019. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2019.102640. M. Aubert, A. Brumm and J. Huntley. Early dates for ‘Neanderthal cave art’ may be wrongJournal of Human Evolution. Vol. 125, December 2018, p. 215. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2018.08.004 D.L. Hoffmann et alU-Th dating of carbonate crusts reveals Neandertal origin of Iberian cave artScience. Vol. 359, February 23, 2018, p. 912. doi:10.1126/science.aap7778.

By contrast, the video that you linked,

claims that C-14 dating of calcite crystals was used to determine that this was Neanderthal art. However, C-14 peters out at 40,000 years, and achieving 65,000 years old takes incredible care not to breathe on the samples lest it contaminate them with recent C-14. As the video shows, no one was wearing masks, gloves or showing the slightest concern to avoid recent CO2 contamination. Which is just as well, because calcite crystals are built up by water with dissolved CO2 trickling into the cave. It would be madness to cite any number older than 30,000 years or so for this specimen using this technique.

The Long Ascent, Volume 2

The actual technique they used, according to the Science News article, was U-Th dating. As 238U decays, it leaves behind some 234Th, and measuring the ratios of U/Th tell you how long this uranium has been decaying. Of course, it requires that the uranium arrive without any thorium, and that nothing move after the uranium arrives. But in these water-deposited stalactites, water is constantly bringing in new minerals and removing old minerals. So once again, the U-Th date is very uncertain, with one side of the picture having a date of 65,000 years old and the other side of the picture having a 3100 year old date.

Whatever you might think about the artistic abilities of Neanderthals, these paintings provide the most inconclusive of evidence.

In the Genesis books, I argue that the characteristics of man mentioned in Genesis 1:26ff are meant to distinguish him from Neanderthals, and therefore Neanderthal preceded man, but was not in the lineage of man. Consequently, it is not likely that Neanderthals possessed language, a sense of self, or an artistic bent.

The Long Ascent: Genesis 1–11 in Science & Myth, Volume 1 by [Sheldon, Robert]

Well, with so much information coming in these days, let’s keep the file open and we shall see.

Rob Sheldon is author of Genesis: The Long Ascent, Vol I and The Long Ascent, Vol II

See also: Researchers challenge claim that Iberian artists were Neanderthals. “Now, a group of 44 researchers has written a strongly worded critique of the dating of these paintings … ” Stay tuned.

Did Neanderthals Create The First Spanish Cave Paintings?


Neanderthal art found.

Thank you for your interesting and informative comment, Mr Sheldon. I appreciate it. Belfast
Just by the pic, I was going to guess Picasso. Maybe Gris. EDTA

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