From Lizzie Wade at Science:
The “necklaces” are tiny: beads of animal teeth, shells, and ivory no more than a centimeter long. But they provoked an outsized debate that has raged for decades. Found in the Grotte du Renne cave at Arcy-sur-Cure in central France, they accompanied delicate bone tools and were found in the same layers as fossils from Neandertals—our archaic cousins. Some archaeologists credited the artifacts—the so-called Châtelperronian culture—to Neandertals. But others argued that Neandertals were incapable of the kind of symbolic expression reflected in the jewelry and insisted that modern humans must have been the creators.
Now, a study uses a new method that relies on ancient proteins to identify and directly date Neandertal bone fragments from Grotte du Renne and finds that the connection between the archaic humans and the artifacts is real. Ross Macphee, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, who has worked with ancient proteins in other studies, calls it “a landmark study” in the burgeoning field of paleoproteomics. And others say it shores up the picture of Neandertals as smart, symbolic humans.More.
The main reason, one suspects, for the insistence that Neanderthals could not engage in symbolic thought is the need for a “sub-human” contemporary with current man. Take that Darwinian need away and why would it even be a problem?
See also: Neanderthal artwork found: “Academic bombshell” obliterates “lesser human” theory?
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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