23 February 2018
Contrary to the traditional view of them as brutes, it turns out that Neanderthals were artists.
A study in Science journal suggests they made cave drawings in Spain that pre-date the arrival of modern humans in Europe by 20,000 years.
They also appear to have used painted sea shells as jewellery.
Art was previously thought to be a behaviour unique to our species (Homo sapiens) and far beyond our evolutionary cousins.
The cave paintings include stencilled impressions of Neanderthal hands, geometric patterns and red circles.
They occupy three sites at La Pasiega, Maltravieso and Ardales - situated up to 700km apart in different parts of Spain.
The researchers used a technique called uranium-thorium dating to obtain accurate ages. It relies on measuring the radioactive decay of uranium that gets incorporated into mineral crusts forming over the paintings.
The results gave a minimum age of 65,000 years ago for the cave art, modern humans only arrived in Europe roughly 45,000 years ago.