Mysterious 16,000-year-old cave art in Bavarian Cave were NOT made by humans

Mysterious 16,000-year-old ‘cave-art’ in Bavarian Cave were NOT made by humans

New research has concluded that the enigmatic 16,000-year-old lines found in a cave in Bavaria, believed to show a phallus were not made by humans as previously believed.

The lines and cave clouds in the Mäanderhöhle cave.
The lines and cave clouds in the Mäanderhöhle cave.

Previously, experts believed that the mystery lines were the earliest examples of stone age art, depicting a male, female and a phallus. However, new studies reveal surprising results which has lead researchers to conclude human beings did not create the mystery ‘cave art.’

The discovery at the 75-meter-long Mäanderhöhle cave in Bavaria was considered by many as a mindboggling discovery as researchers stumbled across hundreds of lines which were believed to depict early examples of fertility symbols.

In addition to the mysterious lines, the Mäanderhöhle cave features a number of spherical mineral deposits known as cave clouds which form on rock much like stalactites and stalagmites.

In 2005, cave researchers stumbled upon hundreds of lines which were believed to have been created by humans with sharp tools on the rock-hard surface of the cave clouds. Researchers studied the lines and published a report where they interpreted them in a preliminary paper suggesting that the ‘cave art’ was between 14,000 and 16,000 years old, created by humans who drew a phallus and abstract humanoid figures.

However, a follow-up study was needed.

“The preliminary report required further scientific investigation,’ says Julia Blumenröther, who led the new study.”

To get to the bottom of the enigmatic cave paintings, Julia Blumenröther and her project partner from the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann were supported by the Bavarian State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments. The team examined over 130 lines that were believed to have been created by humans over the course of two explorations.

“If these lines were made by humans, there would be clear evidence that Stone Age tools were used, as well as similar depictions in other locations,” explains PD Dr. Andreas Pastoors, an expert on Stone Age art from the Neanderthal Museum.

With the help of an extensive range of archaeological methods, Julia Blumenröther documented and analysed the lines in the Upper Franconian cave. In addition to classic methods, Julia Blumenröther used digital microscopy and structure-light 3D scans which helped her examine the actual depth and shape of the lines.

To understand what she was looking at, the young researcher compared digital images displaying cross-sections and the direction of the lines with carved lines depicted in different caves, and lines recreated in the laboratory.

After an extensive examination, the researcher concluded that humans did not create the mysterious lines believed to depict a phallus and abstract humanoid figures inside the Mäanderhöhle cave.

“The scientific analysis showed that the courses and cross-sections of all of the lines contradict the hypothesis that they were carved by humans using a hard, sharp object. Furthermore, none of the 138 lines depict any kind of known Stone Age motif,” Julia Blumenröther says.

“The Mäanderhöhle with its cave clouds is certainly of great interest for cave research, but it cannot be regarded as containing the oldest Stone Age cave art in Germany,” concluded Julia Blumenröther.

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