Thirty-five thousand kya. From ScienceDaily:
A flint flake from the Middle Paleolithic of Crimea was likely engraved symbolically by a skilled Neanderthal hand, according to a study published May 2, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Ana Majkic from the University of Bordeaux, France and colleagues. The authors developed a detailed framework for interpreting engravings on stone artifacts.
Following microscopic examination of the grooved lines on the flint cortex, the researchers concluded that the incisions represent deliberate engravings that would have required fine motor skills and attention to detail. These engravings appear to have been made with symbolic or communicative intent.
If this interpretation is correct, this engraved flake would join a growing list of signs that Neanderthals engaged in symbolic activities, along with evidence of intentional burial, personal ornaments, and other decorated objects. This has implications for the question of when and how many times this sort of cultural expression has evolved among hominin populations. The researchers hope to hone their framework further for use with artifacts of varying ages and cultural contexts. Paper. (open access) – Ana Majkić, Francesco d’Errico, Vadim Stepanchuk. Assessing the significance of Palaeolithic engraved cortexes. A case study from the Mousterian site of Kiik-Koba, Crimea. PLOS ONE, 2018; 13 (5): e0195049 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0195049 More.
An early attempt to record an event, a name, or an agreement? That said, some today argue that prehistoric art isn’t really symbolic, even though all historical art is symbolic in principle.
See also: Human evolution: Ancient art not really symbolic, cognitive scientist claims
Did Neanderthals sail the Mediterranean? Some interesting evidence. Skepticism is a good thing, taken in measured doses, but be cautious of skepticism that brushes aside the normal operations of human nature applied to the likely risks of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
Human evolution: Did large brains cause Neanderthals to go extinct? Did Neanderthals go extinct at all, as opposed to being fully assimilated into the early European population, as genome maps imply? They were never very numerous, relative to the newcomers. Here’s a familiar demographic pattern: There are simply many more partners available in the large majority group than in the small minority one. Small groups must make serious efforts to avoid assimilation (assuming they wish to); otherwise, it can just happen. The group lives on in the genome but not in society. Is there some reason for believing that that is not what really happened to Neanderthals?
Neanderthal artwork found: “Academic bombshell” obliterates “lesser human” theory?
Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents