Swabian cave holds oldest human works of art

The Danube was the gateway for Homo sapiens to Central Europe

Ivory flute from the Geißenklösterle © University of Tübingen
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The oldest art objects of man come from the Swabian Alb. A new radiocarbon dating of objects from the Geißenklösterle cave there proves that our ancestors produced musical instruments and figures there 42, 000 to 43, 000 years ago. They are therefore older than similar finds of this so-called Aurignacian culture in Italy, France and other regions, as the researchers report in the journal "Journal of Human Evolution".

The Geißenklösterle is one of several caves in the Swabian Alb, where jewelery, figurative art with a mythical symbolic imagery as well as musical instruments were found. Now scientists from the Universities of Oxford and Tübingen have performed new radiocarbon dating of these items. In doing so, they used an improved methodology that would better prevent contamination. With 42, 000 to 43, 000 years, these dates are the earliest for the Aurignacian. The Aurignacien is considered the first culture that produced figurative works of art, musical instruments and other innovations. The full spectrum of these innovations had been fully implemented in the region no later than 40, 000 years ago today.

Settlement even before the coldest ice age period

The results of the researchers support the Danube Corridor Hypothesis, according to which anatomically modern humans migrated along the Danube to Central Europe. The new data also show that anatomically modern humans have colonized the region of the Upper Danube by about 40, 000 years before today ("Heinrich-4-Event") even before a very cold phase of the last ice age.

Jewelery from the Geißenklösterle © University of Tübingen

So far, many scientists assumed that the immigration of anatomically modern humans along the Danube took place only after this cold phase. Apparently, the anatomically modern man has entered Southwest Germany earlier, during a milder phase of the Würm Ice Age - at a time and in a climate when Europe was inhabited by Neanderthals. Despite intensive efforts to find archaeological evidence of possible encounters between the two human forms, this has so far not been achieved in the area of ​​the Upper Danube.

Alb as heartland of the Aurignacien

The results suggest that the Swabian Alb are likely to be the heartland of the Aurignacian, with the Swabian caves providing the very oldest evidence of technological and artistic innovation of the period. Whether these innovations, which are well documented in the Alb, were triggered by the influence of climatic stress, the competitive situation with another human form or other socio-cultural dynamics remains central to the research of scientists from T Bingen and Oxford. display

(University of T bingen, 25.05.2012 - NPO)