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Neanderthal Jewelry

Neanderthals were stylish cavemen and cavewomen, and their jewelry was cool by today’s standards. Eight talons from white-tailed eagles were unearthed in a Croatian cave used by Neanderthals that were possibly worn as necklaces or bracelets. That was a hundred years ago, but the significance of the talons is just now coming to light.    

The talons were first excavated more than 100 years ago at a famous sandstone rock-shelter site called Krapina in Croatia. There, archaeologists found more than 900 Neanderthal bones dating back to a relatively warm, interglacial period about 120,000 to 130,000 years ago. They also found Mousterian stone tools (a telltale sign of Neanderthal occupation), a hearth and the bones of rhinos and cave bears, but no signs of modern human occupation. Homo sapiens didn't spread into Europe until about 40,000 years ago.

The eagle talons were all found in the same archaeological layer, Frayer said, and they had been studied a few times before. But no one noticed the cut marks until last year, when Davorka Radovčić, curator of the Croatian Natural History Museum, was reassessing some of the Krapina objects in the collection.

The researchers don't know exactly how the talons would have been assembled into jewelry. But Frayer said some facets on the claws look quite polished — perhaps made smooth from being wrapped in some kind of fiber, or from rubbing against the surface of the other talons. There were also nicks in three of the talons that wouldn't have been created during an eagle's life, Frayer said.

The idea of Neanderthals wearing jewelry gives us a glimpse into their minds, and scientists are debating whether how capable they were of abstract and symbolic thinking. The talons may have been worn as trophies, or they may have been worn for decoration, or maybe both. Read more about Neanderthal jewelry at Live Science. -via mental_floss

(Image credit: Luka Mjeda, Zagreb)


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