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"The emergence of symbolic material culture represents a fundamental threshold in the evolution of humankind.
It is one of the main pillars of what makes us human," he said.
Scientists have found the first major evidence that Neanderthals, rather than modern humans, created the world's oldest known cave paintings - suggesting they may have had an artistic sense similar to our own.
A new study led by the University of Southampton and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology shows that paintings in three caves in Spain were created more than 64,000 years ago - 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe.
The uranium-thorium method involves dating tiny carbonate deposits that have built up on top of the cave paintings.
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But researchers have concluded that these artefacts must have been created by modern humans who were spreading across Europe after their arrival from Africa.
There is evidence that Neanderthals in Europe used body ornamentation around 40,000 to 45,000 years ago, but many researchers have suggested this was inspired by modern humans who at the time had just arrived in Europe.