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Uranium-series dating has recently been applied to figures on the decorated ceiling in the cave.Several motifs are partly covered by thin layers of calcite precipitates, whose formation process is datable by this method.

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The researchers dated calcite deposits associated with 50 paintings in 11 different caves.If, on the other hand, the earlier dates of 38,000 to 40,000 years determined by Pike and his team are accepted the Neanderthals could have been the cave painters.It is believed the first anatomically modern humans from Africa entered Europe and encountered resident Neanderthal populations around 45,000 years ago.Other archaeologists have argued that artists could have entered Chauvet much later and picked up charcoal that had been lying around for thousands of years.Now in a paper published online today in , dating expert Alistair Pike of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and archaeologist Paul Pettitt of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, together with colleagues in Spain, applied a technique called uranium-series (U-series) dating to artworks from 11 Spanish caves.Although the southern cave art—drawings of seals—awaits more definitive dating, radiocarbon analyses of charcoal found alongside it yielded dates of 43,500 to 42,300 years.1 Carbon-14 dating of the red handprints and red dots from northern Spain has produced dates clustering around 35,000 years in some of the caves.2 Carbon-14 dating of cave art is problematic, however. Only small samples can be taken without damaging the artwork.

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