15 April 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Smoke archeology finds evidence Humans visited Nerja Cave for 40,000 Years

A new study by a team from the University of Córdoba reveals that Nerja is the European cave with the most confirmed and recurrent visits during Prehistory.

Humans have been visiting the Cave of Nerja for 41,000 years; for a few of them, it has been exploited as a tourist attraction, and for nearly the same amount of time, it has been the subject of scientific study. Throughout its history, and even today, it continues to stun visitors and researchers from around the world.

The latest surprise from the cave, located in the province of Malaga, was just published in Scientific Reports by an international team including researchers from the University of Córdoba; Marian Medina, currently at the University of Bourdeux; Eva Rodríguez; and José Luis Sachidrián, a Professor of Prehistory and the scientific director of the Cave of Nerja.

They have managed to demonstrate that Humanity has been present in Nerja for some 41,000 years, 10,000 years earlier than previously believed, and that it is Europe’s cave featuring Paleolithic Art in Europe with the highest number of confirmed and recurrent visits to its interior during Prehistory.

This new research has managed to document 35,000 years of visits in 73 different phases, which means that human groups entered the cave every 35 years, according to their calculations.

Image composition of the materials. (A) Black mark (dating number 33). (B) Micro-charcoal inside fixed lamp (dating number 43). (C) Scattered charcoals (dating number 54). (D) GN16-08 stalagmite section. The red arrows point to one of the samples, analyzed both by TEM–EDX and Raman micro-spectroscopy. Credit: Scientific Reports (2023).
Image composition of the materials. (A) Black mark (dating number 33). (B) Micro-charcoal inside fixed lamp (dating number 43). (C) Scattered charcoals (dating number 54). (D) GN16-08 stalagmite section. The red arrows point to one of the samples, analyzed both by TEM–EDX and Raman micro-spectroscopy. Credit: Scientific Reports.

This level of precision has been made possible thanks to the use of the latest techniques dating the coals and remains of fossilized soot on the stalagmites of the Nerja Cave. This is what has been called “smoke archaeology,” a new technique developed by the main author of the work, Marián Medina, from Córdoba’s Santa Rosa district, an honorary researcher at that city’s university, who has been reconstructing European prehistory for more than a decade by analyzing the remnants of torches, fires, and smoke in Spanish and French caves.

With the enthusiasm of one who loves what she does, Medina explains that the information that Transmission Electron Microscopy and Carbon-14 dating techniques can provide on man’s rituals and ways of life is impressive.

In this last work, 68 datings are presented, 48 totally new, of the deepest areas of the cave, featuring Paleolithic Art, and evidence of chronocultures never previously recorded has been found.

Furthermore, these “fire archaeologists” understand how to interpret the way the torches were moved based on the information detected under the microscope, inferring from it the symbolic and scenographic use that humans made of fire 40,000 years ago.

“The prehistoric paintings were viewed in the flickering light of the flames, which could give the figures a certain sense of movement and warmth,” explains Medina, who also underscores the funerary use of the Nerja Cave in the latter part of Prehistory, for thousands of years. “There is still much it can reveal about what we were like,” she says.

The study was published in Scientific Reports.

doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-32544-1

Related Articles

A 2,000-year-old wooden bridge that once linked England and Wales discovered

31 August 2023

31 August 2023

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of Roman and Anglo-Saxon fortifications in the town of Chepstow in the United Kingdom. Surprisingly, however,...

Largest Anglo-Saxon cemetery discovered in Britain illuminates ‘Dark Ages’

16 June 2022

16 June 2022

Archaeologists working on HS2 (the purpose-built high-speed railway line) have discovered a rich Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, where almost...

Rare gladiator tombs were discovered in the Ancient City of Anavarza in southern Türkiye

10 August 2022

10 August 2022

Archaeologists have discovered rare gladiator tombs in the ancient city of Anavarza, known as the “Invincible city” in history, which...

A rare Ogham inscription found on Pictish stone in Scottish Kirkyard

8 November 2022

8 November 2022

A Pictish carved stone cross slab with a rare inscription in the early medieval ogham language has been discovered in...

New discoveries show that Claros continued to serve as an oracle center after Christianity

14 September 2022

14 September 2022

Game boards and forked cross motifs dating to the fifth and seventh centuries AD were discovered at the ancient Greek...

China’s construction of the first archaeological museum which will house the famous Terracotta Warriors has been completed

19 April 2022

19 April 2022

Construction of the first archaeological museum in China’s northwestern province of Shaanxi, which will house the famous Terracotta Warriors, was...

3,000-year-old Treasure on the Iberian Peninsula made with material from a meteorite

7 February 2024

7 February 2024

Scientists have recently discovered that some of the pieces in the amazing Bronze Age collection known as the Villena Treasure,...

A 2,000-year-old Roman sewage system has been discovered in western Turkey

19 September 2021

19 September 2021

The archaeological excavations carried out in the ancient city of Tripolis in the western province of Denizli’s Buldan district have...

In a Wisconsin lake, archaeologists discover a 1,200-year-old dugout canoe

6 November 2021

6 November 2021

Maritime archaeologists from the Wisconsin Historical Society have discovered a dugout wooden canoe in Lake Mendota, Wisconsin, USA. Carbon analysis...

A 2100-year-old inscription found İn Türkiye: Antiochos of Commagene calls on the people to ‘obey and respect the law’

15 March 2024

15 March 2024

The ancient inscription found near Kımıldağı (Kımıl Mount) in Önevler village of Adıyaman’s Gerger district in 2023 will shed light...

Archaeologists discover one of the largest Phallus Relief Carving of ancient Rome

28 August 2022

28 August 2022

According to an announcement by the region’s local history museum, a large Roman-era relief carving of a phallus has been...

1,800-Year-Old Sanctuary to Mithras discovered in Spain

8 February 2023

8 February 2023

Archaeologists excavating at Villa del Mitra in Cabra, Spain, have uncovered a sanctuary dedicated to the god Mithras, along with...

Neanderthals used glue to make stone tools 40,000 years ago, a new study suggests “Earliest evidence of a multi-component adhesive in Europe”

22 February 2024

22 February 2024

More than 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals in what is now France used a multi-component adhesive to make handles for stone...

Arkeologists decipher hieroglyphics of a vessel found in the archaeological rescue of the Mayan Train

16 May 2022

16 May 2022

Based on the analysis of eleven glyphic cartouches inscribed into a ceramic pot, discovered in October 2021 during archaeological rescue...

A carved Hand Imprint unearthed in a 1,000-year-old Jerusalem defensive moat

26 January 2023

26 January 2023

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday that archaeologists discovered the remains of a moat and a mysterious hand imprint...