Scientists claim to have discovered in a Spanish cave the world's oldest paintings -six artworks of seal which are at least 42,000 years old and are the only known images created by Neanderthals.
A team, led by the University of Cordoba, has found the paintings in the Nerja Caves, 35 miles east of Malaga in the southern region of Andalusia in Spain.
Prof Jose Luis Sanchidrian, who led the team, described the discovery as "an academic bombshell", as all previous art work has been attributed to Homo sapiens, the 'Daily Mail' online reported.
The Spanish scientists sent organic residue found next to the paintings to Miami, where they were dated at being between 43,500 and 42,300 years old. Now, they hope to establish the exact age by testing parts of the paintings themselves, but their investigation has been hampered by a lack of cash.
Antonio Garrido, in charge of preserving the caves, said the paintings could revolutionise our view of Neanderthal man, who is often portrayed as being monkey-like.
Neanderthals lived in the Nerja Caves before becoming extinct about 30,000 years ago, leaving behind flint tools.
Later, prehistoric Homo sapiens used the caves, painting on the walls and leaving pottery, tools and skeletons. Neanderthals, who were known to eat seals, are thought to have died out from competition with Homo sapiens, although scientists recently suggested they were wiped out by climate change.