Friday, July 8, 2016



I do not know if reading this title surprises you as much as writing it surprises me, but this seems to be the only conclusion we can make about findings from Bruniquel cave in France. An article by Ewen Callaway from Nature Magazine, on May 25, 2016, and reprinted by Scientific American online, describes arrangements of broken off pieces of stalagmites that I can only understand in terms of intentional structures.

"The six structures are made of about 400 large, broken-off stalagmites, arranged in semi-circles up to 6.7 metres wide. The researchers think that the pieces were once stacked up to form rudimentary walls. All have signs of burning, suggesting that fires were made within the walls. By analysing calcite accreted on the stalagmites and stumps since they were broken off, the team determined that the structures were made 174,400 to 178,600 years ago." (


There are two of the stone circles, and four piles of pieces of stalagmite accompanying them. All of this is found 1,000 feet from the entrance of the cave with at least one stretch that requires crawling to pass through.

"Now Jaubert et al. have published he results of their analysis of a remarkable set of structures discovered some 336 meters deep inside Bruniquel Cave in France. Made from the broken-off spears of roughly 400 stalagmites, these circular patterns and seemingly careful piles span between 2 and 7 meters in diameter, and strongly suggest the deliberate actions of someone, or something.

The astonishing aspect is the age that Jaubert et al. find for the formation. The broken pieces of the stalagmites have continued to grow layers since they were snapped off in the wet cave environment, and so the researchers were able to identify where the original calcite surfaces were in their core samples. They then used uranium-series radioisotope dating to come up with a time for the event of around 176,500 years ago (give or take about 2,100 years)." (Scharf, Caleb, 2016,


To me this description can only be describing intentional construction from ca. 176,000 years ago, and at that period in time Neandertals were the only hominin in western Europe. 

“The big question is why they made it,” says Jean-Jacques Hublin, a palaeoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany who was not involved in the study, which is published online in Nature on May 25. “Some people will come up with interpretations of ritual or religion or symbolism. Why not? But how to prove it?”" (

Now, back when I was an art history student, architecture was classified as an art form and included in the textbooks, so I am presenting this as rock art, of a sort. It also provides context for an appraisal of Neandertal creative cognitive ability, and we now know that they could, and did, create rock art. 
Get the full story from the Scientific American article cited below, or read the original in Nature Magazine.


Callaway, Ewen, 2016

Scharf, Caleb, 2016

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