It seems the Neandertal wore jewelry. Who knew? Excerpt:
Neanderthals hunted mammoths, bison and other powerful animals for food — yet their fiercest foes may have been the massive eagles they snared to make jewellery. The talons of white-tailed eagles found at a Neanderthal site in Croatia show cut marks and patterns of wear that suggest the claws were donned as personal ornaments.
“They’re very powerful birds. It takes a certain amount of bravery and foolishness, even, to catch one of these things,” says David Frayer, a palaeoanthropologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, whose team describes the claws in paper published on 12 March in the journal PLoS ONE. With wing spans of around 2 metres, the birds are Europe’s largest aerial predator.
The 130,000 year-old talons were discovered more than a century ago in a rock shelter near the town Krapina in northern Croatia. Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger, a geologist, dug them up between 1899 and 1905 as part of a trove of animal remains, stone tools and Neanderthal bones and teeth. He sent them to a colleague for identification, and probably never saw the talons again, thinks Frayer: “The cut marks are so obvious that someone like Gorjanović would have seen them.”
It’s not too surprising that the Neandertal have recently been found to be far more advanced than we thought only a few decades ago. They were anything but shambling, stupid brutes once dismissed as “cave men” but rather hardy, intelligent people who survived for half a million years in a savage wilderness, even in Ice Age Europe. They had language, they had brains larger than ours, they specialized in hunting the largest game in their Paleolithic world.
And, True Believers, if your ancestry has any background from Europe or western Asia, you carry some of their genes. Now there’s an interesting tidbit for contemplation.