Neanderthals were wearing jewellery long before they encountered modern humans, a new study suggests. Researchers have identified the remains of what they believe was a necklace or bracelet made of eight talons from white-tailed eagles in a 130,000-year-old Neanderthal cave in Croatia.
If true, it suggests Neanderthals were capable of symbolic thought – something some scientists have doubted – and that they did not pick it up from modern humans.
“It really is absolutely stunning,” study author David Frayer, an anthropology professor at the University of Kansas, told Live Science. “It fits in with this general picture that’s emerging that Neanderthals were much more modern in their behaviour.”
The talons were first excavated more than 100 years in a sandstone rock-shelter site called Krapina in Croatia. They were all found in the same archaeological layer. While they have been studied before before, no one had noticed the cut marks on them until last year.
Recent research has shown Neanderthals to be more sophisticated that we previously thoughts. There is now evidence that they may have engaged in some familiar behaviors, such as burying their dead, adorning themselves with feathers and even making art.
DNA evidence is also rewriting modern humans’ relationship with them.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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