‘Uranium dating has been enormously important,’ he underlines.
Like we recognise art as quintessentially human, we also consider tool use and technological progress to be defining for our species, and it was as important to ancient humans as it is to us.
It’s possible to measure the ratios of uranium-238/uranium-234 and thorium-230/uranium-238, the latter of which depends on the former.
Since only uranium, and not thorium, is present at sample formation, comparing the two ratios can be used to calculate the time passed since the sample formed. Pike’s team are not actually dating the painting itself, but small calcite growths on top of it.
A portion of the carbon is the radioactive isotope carbon-14.
But because the stencil date is a minimum age, there’s a chance the Neanderthals could have been the artists.‘We’ve got dates that are tantalisingly close to the point at which modern humans arrived,’ explains Pike. hand stencils to see whether or not dates come out in the period where we know there were only Neanderthals in northern Spain.’The issue of Neanderthal art regularly appears in the media, but is controversial in the academic world.For some, it fits in with emerging evidence that Neanderthals were an intelligent human species, but others remain unconvinced.Regardless, if there is evidence to find that Neanderthals were artists, dating will be the thing to expose it.According to Walker, the importance of this type of dating can’t be overestimated.