30,000-year-old carving might be work of “Neanderthals”

Posted by Chris Parker
Oct 18 2005

Intricate ivory carvings said to be the oldest known examples of figurative art have been uncovered in a cave in southwestern Germany.

The artefacts – including a figurine depicting a Lowenmensch (‘lion man’) – have been carbon-dated to around 30,000 years ago, when some of the earliest known relatives of modern humans populated Europe. Discovered last year by a team led by US archaeologist Nicholas Conard of the University of Tübingen in Germany, at the Hohle Fels cave near Ulm, the objects include figures depicting a horse and a bird.

Conard says he thinks that the figures are older than a previously discovered Lowenmensch, fragments of which were found by German archaeologists in 1939 near Vogelherd and dated to about the same time. Until now, those artefacts were accepted as the oldest examples of figurative art in the world. The newly discovered objects are older, Conard argues, as they were uncovered at a lower level in the cave floor’s sediments.

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