New method estimates cave drawings to be 20,000 years old

'The goat,' Nerja Cave's most symbolic painting.
'The goat,' Nerja Cave's most symbolic painting. / E.C.
  • An article published this week in the Journal of Archaeological Science reports findings made by experts who have been analyzing the artwork

A team of scientists investigating the age of the drawings in the Nerja caves has dated them back 20,000 years, instead of the previously believed 43,500 to 40,000 years.

The team, which has been led by professor José Luis Sanchidrán, from the University of Córdoba, has been working at the site for five years using a new technique to analyse paintings such as the famous 'goat,' which is used by the Nerja Caves Foundation as their logo, as well as the Camarín de los Pisciformes.

In 2010 an analysis of the materials used to create the latter drawing dated it back to Neanderthal times. However, the latest findings suggest that the paintings could have been done by Homo-Sapiens.

The results of Sanchidrán's team's work were published on Monday in an article in the Journal of Archaeological Science, which is already available online with the title, 'New perspectives for 14C dating of parietal markings using CaCO3 thin layers: An example in Nerja cave (Spain). The journal itself will come out in April.

This new method can only analyse drawings which mix organic elements such as charcoal, with inorganic materials like calcite. "We want to continue to deepen our knowledge of the age of these drawings, without harming their conservation," said Professor Sanchidrán, who highlighted that the method used is "not destructive." The team will now ask the Junta de Andalucía's permission to take samples from other cave drawings.