One impressive group dwelled in the region for tens of thousands of years, weathering several ice ages here. During such times lower sea levels exposed a vast coastal plain in front of the cave, land that supported a variety of animals and plants. These individuals cleverly exploited the local bounty. They hunted large animals such as ibex and seals and small ones such as rabbits and pigeons; they fished for bream and gathered mussels and limpets from the distant shore; they harvested pine nuts from the surrounding evergreens. Sometimes they took ravens and eagles for their plumage to bedeck themselves with the beautiful black flight feathers. And they engraved their cave floor with symbols whose meaning has since been lost to time. (paywall)
But that is just the trouble, isn’t it? The meaning has been lost to time.
If we mean only to say that they were humans, not animals, then the secrets of their cognition are the same as the secret of ours, and the loss of the ability to interpret the symbols is the same loss as when we can no longer read scripts in dead languages.
See also: Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents
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