Neanderthals were artists, according to a new study in Science, which reveals that the oldest cave art found in Europe predates early modern humans by at least 20,000 years, and so must have had Neanderthal origin. The findings mark the first clear evidence that our extinct cousins created cave drawings. In a related study in Science Advances, researchers also studying caves in Spain report that dyed and decorated marine shells - items of assigned value that serve as proxies for the presence of language - also date back to times before the known appearance of modern humans in the region. Together, the reports suggest that Neanderthals exhibited complex symbolic communication systems, the emergence of which, for our species, has been hard to pinpoint because of difficulties in precise and accurate dating. In the Science study, Dirk Hoffmann and colleagues explain that several instances of cave art have been suggested to have been created at the hands of Neandertals; however, the dating of these artworks, and whether they were intentional, remains controversial. Here, using a new dating technique, the authors analyzed isotope samples from three Spanish caves - La Pasiega, Maltravieso, and Ardales. The caves contain red and black paintings of animals, linear signs, claviform signs, and dots, as well as stencils of hands (whereas a full handprint could be accidental, say the authors, stenciling a hand is a clearly intentional art).