The interest in these findings lies in the fact that it is the most modern piece of the kind so far regarding the Neanderthal period and the first one found in the Iberian Peninsula. This circumstance widens the temporary and geographical limits that were estimated for this kind of Neanderthal ornaments. This would be “the last necklace made by the Neanderthals,” according to Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo.
“Neanderthals used eagle talons as symbolic elements, probably as necklace pendants, from the beginnings of the mid Palaeolithic,” notes Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo. In particular, what researchers found in Cova Foradada are bone remains from Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila Adalberti), from more than 39,000 years ago, with some marks that show these were used to take the talons so as to make pendants. The found remains correspond to the left leg of a big eagle. By the looks of the marks, and analogy regarding remains from different prehistorical sites and ethnographic documentation, researchers determined that the animal was not manipulated for consumption but for symbolic reasons. Eagle talons are the oldest ornamental elements known in Europe, even older than seashells Homo sapiens sapiens perforated in northern Africa.
The findings belong to the châtelperronian culture, typical from the last Neanderthals that lived in Europe, and coincided with the moment when this species got in touch with Homo sapiens sapiens, from Africa -and expanding from the Middle East. Actually, Juan Ignacio Morales, researcher in the program Juan de la Cierva affiliated at SERP and signer of the article, presents this use of eagle talons as ornaments could have been a cultural transmission from the Neanderthals to modern humans, who adopted this practice after reaching Europe. Paper. (open access) – The first signer of the article in Science Advances is Antonio Rodríguez Hidalgo, from the Institute of Evolution in Africa (IDEA). Other participants, apart from SERP members, are the researchers from Rovira i Virgili University, the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES), the Natural History Museum of Paris, the University of Salamanca, the University of Calgary (Canada) and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). More.
Abstract: Evidence for the symbolic behavior of Neanderthals in the use of personal ornaments is relatively scarce. Among the few ornaments documented, eagle talons, which were presumably used as pendants, are the most frequently recorded. This phenomenon appears concentrated in a specific area of southern Europe during a span of 80 thousand years. Here, we present the analysis of one eagle pedal phalange recovered from the Châtelperronian layer of Foradada Cave (Spain). Our research broadens the known geographical and temporal range of this symbolic behavior, providing the first documentation of its use among the Iberian populations, as well as of its oldest use in the peninsula. The recurrent appearance of large raptor talons throughout the Middle Paleolithic time frame, including their presence among the last Neanderthal populations, raises the question of the survival of some cultural elements of the Middle Paleolithic into the transitional Middle to Upper Paleolithic assemblages and beyond. More.
Ge this from The Smithsonian:
The question about wearing talons gets to the heart of a larger debate among paleoanthropologists about Neanderthals. Thirty years ago, scientists only ascribed symbolic behavior to Homo sapiens, and Neanderthals were thought to be totally different from us, Rodríguez says. “Now we have little pieces of evidence that show a different picture.”
Those little pieces of evidence include Neanderthal use of pigments, ritualistic burial sites and possible cave art. Still, many of these findings remain extremely controversial. Just last month, the Journal of Human Evolution published a paper signed by more than 40 anthropologists arguing that there is no strong evidence for Neanderthal cave art in Spain. The researchers were responding to findings, reported last year, that suggested a few cave art sites in Spain were at least 65,000 years old, predating the arrival of modern humans in region—meaning they must have been created by Neanderthals. The authors of the response paper contend that we have no reason to believe that Neanderthals made cave art because evidence of their symbolic practices are “exceedingly rare and often ambiguous,” paling in comparison to the complex figurative cave art created by modern humans.Megan Gannon, “Eagle Talon Jewelry Suggests Neanderthals Were Capable of Human-Like Thought” at Smithsonian.com
Most likely the underlying issue for the dissenters is that the anthropologists are Darwinians and in any Darwinian scheme, someone must be the subhuman. Otherwise, there is no beginning to human history. The Neanderthals are convenient for the purpose. If we found a Stone Age laptop among the Neanderthal artifacts, the same people might still be claiming it didn’t prove anything.
An earlier find:
Why they did it? Well, what does it mean that you can wear eagle claws around your neck? Remember, anyone can open an oyster… 😉
See also: Neanderthal Taste In Jewelry Included Eagle Talons