Friday, April 29, 2011


La Ferrassie rock slab with cupules, redrawn from
p. 25, Chakravarty and Bednarik, Indian Rock Art
and Its Global Context, 1997. Peter Faris, 11-21-10.

There has recently been a spate of interest in the question of Neandertal cognition. A recent scientific news story has circulated about an example of Neandertal jewelry exemplified by a pierced and purposefully painted scallop shell. My point then was that I really cannot doubt that a human mind that has been shown to be capable of creating such an example of purposeful decoration could have not been capable of another form of purposeful decoration, in this case rock art.

In 1933, in the cave of La Ferrassie, in the Dordogne in southwest France, the burial of a Neandertal child was discovered which had been covered by a large limestone slab. On the underside of this slab an arrangement of man made pits had been created, commonly known as cupules these are usually considered to be an element of rock art. They are described as two larger hollows and eight pairs of smaller holes. Given its association with evidence of Mousterian occupation these cupules have been assigned a date of approximately 60,000 years BCE.

So here is my point, since we classify cupules as rock art when we find it to have been created by Native Americans, Australian aboriginals, or any other modern human populations in any part of the world, why is it not rock art if it was created by Neandertals? The cupules on this slab have been called the “oldest rock art in Europe” and do represent, if we accept cupules as rock art, an example of Neandertal rock art. What else might be awaiting our recognition?

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