New Historian

130,000-Year-Old Talons Reveal Neanderthals’ Creativity

White-tailed Eagle in Flight

<![CDATA[A set of eight white-tailed eagle talons found a century ago in Croatia may have been a necklace made by Neanderthals living in the area. The suggestion overturns the belief that Homo sapiens are the only species capable of appreciating the symbolism related to the creation of ornaments such as jewellery. A Croatian-American team has studied the talons and concluded that our direct ancestors, the Neanderthals, may well have been smarter than previously thought. The study is the latest in a series documenting Neanderthal cave art and ornamentation. The eight talons the study focused on were found in Krapina, Croatia, between 1899 and 1905. The site yielded a rich bounty, including hundreds of human bones and teeth, stone tools, and nearly 3,000 animal remains, authors Davorka Radovcic, Jakov Radovcic, Ankica Oros Srsen, and David Frayer note in their paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal Plos One. They go on to point out that despite the abundance of animal remains, white-tailed eagle talons are a rarity, not just at the Krapina site, but in Europe as a whole, due to the nature of these birds. Large and aggressive, they were as difficult to catch 130,000 years ago (as the remains have been dated) as they are today. Still, the origin of the talons is unmistakable. What makes the find even more fascinating is the fact that the other animal remains found at Krapina are mostly those of mammals. This has caused researchers to suggest that birds were not part of the local humans’ diet. Four of the talons bear distinct, parallel and V-shaped cuts, and there is evidence that they have been deliberately polished. This suggests that they were all part of one ornament, possibly a necklace. What’s more, the talons’ appearance points to the fact that they were severed from the birds’ feet on purpose, then cured and marked. In addition to the talons, there is a white-eagle phalanx that has been marked by a hand in at least 21 places. These markings fit with the description of striations made with stone tools, striations being various scratches and grooves in stones and bones. The shapes of the markings, the authors say, leave “... no doubt that they were produced by Neanderthal manipulation.” Establishing that the markings on the talons were made by a Neanderthal's hand was the most important task for the researchers. Bones and other remains with sharp markings have been found elsewhere at Neanderthal sites, but their shape and the lack of evidence of deliberate polishing have led scientists to the conclusion that the markings were the result of trampling, and not conscious activity. In this case, however, the markings were unquestionably deliberate, as supported by the fact that they only appeared at the wide parts of the talons, reinforcing the idea that they were decorative in nature. Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons user: Dmgultekin]]>

Exit mobile version