Saturday, February 7, 2009



The first cave dwellers in Europe were Neanderthals. They had no art, and they did not make striking improvements in stone tools. They were followed by the Cro-Magnons (aka "Beaker Babies"). The Cro-Magnons entered Europe during the fourth glaciation. They are considered by some to be the first species of genetically engineered modern humans.

The Cro-Magnons were the first to leave behind art of a type requiring some skill. Instead of creating crude pictures and images for magic purposes, they tried to depict animals as the animals really looked. Their early culture is called Aurignacian.

At the peak of the fourth glaciation the Cro-Magnons had to stay close to their cave homes. During this period they developed the art of the Magdalenian culture. The detail of animals carved on harpoons and ceremonial wands was wonderfully delicate, and the shapes were vividly lifelike.

Some Magdalenian artists lived in Spain and France. They scratched processions of animals on cave walls and ceilings and filled the outlines with vivid color. They used ocher, red iron oxide, and other minerals, mixed in tallow, for pigments.

As the Ice Age drew to an end, the Cro-Magnons apparently went underground (Syria/Jerusalem and Basque Andora) as the ice melted and receded. They disappeared from surface Europe. Their places were taken by peoples who came from Africa into Spain. There were several culture groups; but these are often grouped as Azilian-Tardenoisian. These people had bows and arrows and domesticated dogs. They too left art in caves; but it lacked the Magdalenian feeling for form and fine details. In more recent times caves have been used as temples and monasteries, particularly in India. During World War II they served as shelters from air raids, as underground factory sites, and for storage of art treasures. In the depths of large caves temperatures are always the same, summer and winter. Usually the constant temperature is about the same as the average annual temperature on the surface above a cave.


Shreeve, James. The Neandertal Enigma: Solving the Mystery of Modern Human Origins (Morrow, 1995).

Swanscombe skull, archaic human fossil remains found at Swanscombe, Kent, England in 1935, 1936, and 1955; consists of skull bones of a young female; believed to date back to Second Interglacial Period (about 200,000 years ago) and predates Neanderthal man; predecessor of modern humans; usually classified as Homo sapiens heidelbergenis, an early subspecies of Homo sapiens.