Thursday, January 14, 2010

Neanderthals, too, had a certain style

Another pair of sites in Spain confirms that our Neanderthal cousins were capable of symbolic thought:
Professor João Zilhão and colleagues examined pigment-stained and perforated marine shells, most certainly used as neck pendants, from two Neanderthal-associated sites in the Murcia province of south-east Spain (Cueva de los Aviones and Cueva Antón). The analysis of lumps of red and yellow pigments found alongside suggest they were used in cosmetics. The practice of body ornamentation is widely accepted by archaeologists as conclusive evidence for modern behaviour and symbolic thinking among early modern humans but has not been recognised in Neanderthals – until now.
Previous evidence of Neanderthal practice in the decorative arts had been dismissed as the result of "stratigraphic mixing (which can lead to confusion about the dating of particular artefacts), Neanderthal scavenging of abandoned modern human sites, or Neanderthal imitation without understanding of behaviours observed among contemporary modern human groups." Professor Zilhão believes that the current finds are clear evidence of advanced cognitive abilities among late members of the Neanderthal line.

(Thanks to Archeoblog for the find)

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