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In September 1940, Marcel Ravidat found a cavity on Lascaux Hill.On the 12th September 1940, he came back with Gerorges Agniel, Simon Coencas and Jacques Marsal.U-series dating takes advantage of the fact that calcite, the form of calcium carbonate in stalactites and stalagmites, contains trace amounts of radioactive uranium-238, which decays to form atomic elements including radioactive thorium-230.
The team also says that the new work has big implications for cave art elsewhere in Europe, including the magnificent paintings at the Grotte Chauvet, which have long served as the chief evidence for early humans' precocious artistic talents.
Since the Chauvet art was discovered in 1994, many researchers have seen it as evidence that modern humans arrived in Europe from Africa ready, willing, and able to create sophisticated paintings that rival those of much later caves, such as Lascaux in southern France.
The team argues that the new dating, along with similar dates from sites such as Abri Castanet in France, where archaeologists recently dated depictions of female genitalia to at least 37,000 years ago, suggests that the earliest European artists "were less concerned with animal depictions" and more interested in simpler motifs such as "red dots, disks, lines, and hand stencils," as they put it in the paper.
"There is an emerging picture of the earliest cave art being largely nonfigurative," says Pettitt, who has long challenged the Chauvet dates as too old.
Other archaeologists have argued that artists could have entered Chauvet much later and picked up charcoal that had been lying around for thousands of years.
Now in a paper published online today in , dating expert Alistair Pike of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and archaeologist Paul Pettitt of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, together with colleagues in Spain, applied a technique called uranium-series (U-series) dating to artworks from 11 Spanish caves.The earliest possible dates for archaeological artifacts associated with modern humans, in Spain, Italy, and France are about 41,600 years ago.(Zilhao discounts recent dates from Germany of up to 43,000 years ago.) Other researchers praise the study, but are cautious about concluding that Neandertals were cave artists.After the Second World War, Lascaux was open to the public for several years until 1963.Many visitors came to visit the site, around 1500 visitors a day, but the carbon dioxide in the human breath soon began to damage the prehistoric paintings of the painted cave. The painting cave is under close surveillance in order to preserve this site which is registered as a the World Heritage of the Humanity by UNESCO (Unesco world Heritage site).Figuring out the age of cave art is fraught with difficulties.