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Researcher stumbles upon mysterious 5,000-year-old paintings depicting arrows and human-like figures

A collection of 5,000-year-old cave paintings depicting various figures and symbols has been discovered in Spain.

The drawings were discovered in the rocky area of ​​San Juan, near the town of Albuquerque in the province of Badajoz in western Spain.

They are around 4 inches in length and include some anthropomorphic figures, as well as an arrow and other symbols, according to Spanish daily newspaper La Vanguardia.

The doodlings were discovered by Agustín Palomo, an historic researcher who lives locally to the caves, while he was looking for a type of tomb known as a Dolmen.

Mr Palomo immediately recognised their significance, given their location not far from two other well-known sets of cave drawings – ‘Risco de San Blas’, of the Sierra de la Carava and those of Azagala – the latter of which were only discovered around 20 years ago.

It has taken a year to analyse the drawings, with Palomo, who specialises in the period, undertaking responsibility for studying one of the drawings he discovered himself.

The findings will be published in the latest issue of the Journal of Extremeño Studies on Sunday, December 1.

A jagged and rocky surface of the cave wall could be the reason the paintings have remained hidden for so long. 

Various other cave art discoveries have been made in the Extremadura region of western Spain – notably in the caves of Maltravieso, where 71 handprint stencils were found in the 1990s. 

The Maltravieso caves were discovered in 1951 and shows traces of human occupation from the Middle Paleolithic period (300,000 to 30,000 years-ago).

Just last year, three different examples of artwork were found deep inside separate caverns in Spain some 434 miles apart: La Pasiega in the north, Maltravieso in central Spain, and Ardales in the south. 

Cave art in La Pasiega dates back more than 64,000 years, and was made by Neanderthals – making it much older than the art work found by Mr Palomo.

The period around 5,000 years ago was when writing born, just after the invention of the wheel and the beginning of historiography.

Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology last year did a study suggesting that cave drawings from the period of and prior to the invention of language prove that the fundamental parts of speech were derived from artwork.  

This intersection of drawing and sound is called ‘cross-modality information transfer’, which is the convergence of visual art and auditory information.

The report’s authors said this intersection ‘allowed early humans to enhance their ability to convey symbolic thinking’, the report said. 

One of the authors of the Massachusetts study, a linguist from MIT named Shigeru Miyagawa, commented: ‘Cave art was part of the package deal in terms of how homo sapiens came to have this very high-level cognitive processing.

‘You have this very concrete cognitive process that converts an acoustic signal into some mental representation and externalizes it as a visual.’

His theory implies that the creation of cave art was not necessarily a leisure activity. Rather, it had a conventional purpose, allowing humans to communicate clearly.

Miyagawa said: ‘I think it’s very clear that these artists were talking to one another. It’s a communal effort.’

However, scientists are still somewhat in the dark about the origins of human speech. 

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