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Neanderthal taste in jewelry included eagle talons

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white-tailed eagle/Yathin S. Krishnappa

Remember the recent claim that wolves helped current humans kill off Neanderthals, presumably because the Neanderthals were too stupid to tame and keep such animals, as others had done.

The lowly Neanderthals, it seems, have outsmarted a lot of academics in recent years. Just when it was safe to pontificate that Neanderthals couldn’t do art, there was the “bombshell” discovery of Neanderthal art. So here at the elite and highly sophisticated offices of UD News, we just said, wait till some Neanderthal excavation turns up an apparent ritual hunting dog burial.

Okay, not so lucky yet, but it turns out that Neanderthals wore eagle talons as jewellery:

A few raptor talons and feathers — also bearing hints of use as jewellery — have been discovered in other Neanderthal sites, but the Krapina collection of eight talons from at least three different birds is the largest and oldest on record, says Frayer. Some of the cut marks — presumably made when the talons were severed from the birds’ legs — were smoothed over; many of the talons are also burnished.

Frayer sees this as clear evidence that Neanderthals manipulated the claws for use as jewellery pieces such as a necklace or pendant. Some archaeologists have contended that only Homo sapiens had minds capable of such symbolic behaviour, expressed in cave art, jewellery and other artefacts with no obvious practical use.

Actually, the talons may in fact have been of practical use. From the look of them, they might have been useful as small picks—but the researchers are doubtless right that that wasn’t their principal value.

Reminds me of the old story about the young Southwestern native man who was wearing a pendant made of alligator teeth. A gushy visitor complimented him, noting that those teeth were just like pearls in her culture.

He replied, “Not exactly, ma’am. Anyone can open an oyster.”

Yeah, wearing the alligator teeth pendant is more like drinking champagne from the newly won Stanley Cup. Anyone can drink champagne.

See also: Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents


A deep and abiding need for Neanderthals to be stupid. Why?

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Here’s the abstract:


We describe eight, mostly complete white-tailed eagle (Haliaëtus [Haliaeetus] albicilla) talons from the Krapina Neandertal site in present-day Croatia, dating to approximately 130 kyrs ago. Four talons bear multiple, edge-smoothed cut marks; eight show polishing facets and/or abrasion. Three of the largest talons have small notches at roughly the same place along the plantar surface, interrupting the proximal margin of the talon blade. These features suggest they were part of a jewelry assemblage, — the manipulations a consequence of mounting the talons in a necklace or bracelet. An associated phalanx articulates with one of the talons and has numerous cut marks, some of which are smoothed. These white-tailed eagle bones, discovered more than 100 years ago, all derive from a single level at Krapina and represent more talons than found in the entire European Mousterian period. Presence of eight talons indicates that the Krapina Neandertals acquired and curated eagle talons for some kind of symbolic purpose. Some have argued that Neandertals lacked symbolic ability or copied this behavior from modern humans. These remains clearly show that the Krapina Neandertals made jewelry well before the appearance of modern humans in Europe, extending ornament production and symbolic activity early into the European Mousterian. – Radovcic D, Sršen AO, Radovcic J, Frayer DW (2015) Evidence for Neandertal Jewelry: Modified White-Tailed Eagle Claws at Krapina. PLoS ONE 10(3): e0119802. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0119802

Neanderthals did not go extinct. Neanderthals exist in our midst. Who doubts that? Mung
We've known for a while now that Neanderthals didn't go extinct but rather integrated and interbred with an out of Africa population of modern humans. CHartsil

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