Neanderthals, it appears, far from being archetypal for primitive, uncivilised behaviour, were indeed a species - as illuminated through fossil excavations and recent genome analysis - not that different at all from ourselves.
During the past decade, history with regard to the Neanderthal humanoids has had to be revised, and newly discovered hand stencils - at the El Castillo cave - included a red disc more than 40,800 years old, which it appears could not have been created by modern man.
Neanderthals, it appears, far from being archetypal for primitive, uncivilised behaviour, were indeed a species - as illuminated through fossil excavations and recent genome analysis - not that different at all from ourselves, contrary to that long-held misconception of their being dim-witted.
Neanderthals, it has recently been found, not only used tools but also created and wore jewellery, even interbreeding with Homo sapiens, so much so, in fact, that every modern European genome is four percent Neanderthal. It now seems, dispelling the unintelligent Neanderthal myth once and for all, that they might have been the first human species caves -painters.
State-of-the-art investigating methods have enabled scientists to date eleven cave painting locations in Spain, samples from 50 paintings collected, that red disc currently Europe's oldest-dated art, by at least 4,000 years.
Knowing that modern humans reached Europe slightly later than this, the stencils found could very well be attributable to Neanderthal artists, as symbolic culture has already been shown to have existed amongst them - 50,000-year-old evidence of body painting as well as jewellery decoration made from bones, teeth, ivory and marine shells having been discovered - at French sites.
The method employed was Uranium-thorium dating - known since the 1960s but usually requiring large samples - yet this team managed to refine the method to be effective using only as big as a grain of rice, though scientists will need to find and date samples from more caves using the new technique to prove once and for all that Neanderthal cave art creation is a reality.
Needless to say, If there prove to be more paintings that are older than 42,000 years, doubt about Neanderthals being the world's first cave artists will be forever forgotten, Neanderthal art available then for anyone to see.