|14 November 2000
Were the oldest cave painters Italians?
What may be the world's oldest known cave paintings have been discovered in northern Italy. They are between 32,000 and 36,500 years old. Archaeologists have found tablets of stone showing images of an animal and a human-like creature. The discovery adds to evidence that people living when Europe was in the grip of the last Ice Age were more sophisticated than was once thought. The painted slabs were discovered in Fumane Cave, near Verona. Previously this cave has provided stone tools and other evidence of occupation.
Apparently, the slabs on which the drawings were found had fallen from the cave roof and become embedded in the floor. Alberto Broglio of the University of Ferrara said the paintings were covered with calcite that made the original red ochre finish difficult to see. Archaeologists have now removed much of the calcite. Like many stone drawings from the distant past, they are enigmatic and difficult to interpret. On one of the slabs is an unknown, probably symbolic, four-legged beast. A human figure with the head of an animal is depicted on another slab. The current record-holder for the oldest images are from the Grotte Chauvet in southern France, dated at about 32,000 years old.
Source: BBC News (1 November 2000)
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