A bone carved 51,000 years ago reveals the symbolic capacity of Neanderthals


The carved bone found in Germany.

The carved bone found in Germany.

51,000 years ago a Neanderthal carved deer bone with a chevron design, a finding that shows that they were capable of creating symbolic expressions before the arrival of “Homo Sapiens” in central Europe, according to a study published in ‘Nature Ecology & Evolution’.

The bone of a giant deer hoof, which was found in the ancient cave entrance of Einhornhöhle, in northern Germany, presents an incision with a stacked chevron design (in the shape of peaks), indicates the study signed by German experts.

So far, they have found numerous examples of symbolic art and behavior in the early ‘Homo sapiensof Africa and Eurasia, however, Similar evidence that may shed light on Neanderthals’ cognitive ability is lacking, close relatives of humans.

The research, led by Dirk leder of the State Service for Cultural Heritage of Lower Saxony (Germany), adds to the growing evidence that this species had a sophisticated symbolic behavior.

“It is very likely that Neanderthals were aware of symbolic meaning” and this finding shows that “were able to create symbolic expressions before ‘Homo sapiens’ reached Central Europe“, indicates the investigation.

The finding comes from an apparently Middle Palaeolithic context linked to Neanderthals and “demonstrates that conceptual imagination, as a prerequisite for composing individual lines into a coherent design, was present,” the authors write.

Microscopic analyzes and experimental replicas suggest that the bone was boiled to soften it before carving. The engraving of individual lines, in a chevron design, is not only indicative of conceptual imagination, but giant deer were rare north of the Alps at this time, “reinforcing the idea that the engraving had symbolic meaning. “.

In an article also published by the magazine, Silvia Bello, from the Center for Human Evolution Research, Natural History Museum, London, recalls the evidence of gene exchange between Neanderthals and modern humans more than 50,000 years ago.

Therefore, “we cannot exclude an equally early exchange of knowledge between modern human and Neanderthal populations, which may have influenced the production of Einhornhöhle’s engraved artifact. ”

In any case, the ability to learn, to integrate innovation into one’s own culture, and to adapt to new technologies and abstract concepts “must be recognized as an element of behavioral complexity“.

Thus, Einhornhöhle’s engraved bone “brings Neanderthal behavior even closer to modern ‘Homo sapiens’ behavior.”

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