Decorated bird bone suggests Neanderthals had eye for esthetics

March 30, 2017
Legend of the image: left: notched raven bone from Zaskalnaya VI Neanderthal site, Crimea. center: experimental notching of a bird bone; right: sequences of experimentally made notches compared to those from Zaskalnaya VI. Credit: Francesco d'Errico

A 40,000 year old piece of raven bone that was etched with near-even lines suggests Neanderthals had an eye for esthetics, French researchers said Wednesday.

Neanderthals, who were cousins of modern men and who disappeared some 38,000 years ago, are known to have used pigments and collected bird feathers and shells, sometimes burying objects with the dead.

Now, the 1.5 centimeter piece of found at an archeological site in Crimea suggests they may have etched lines in a way that appeared deliberate, and may have been symbolic or decorative.

Microscopic analysis showed that six grooves were added at first, and two more later, perhaps to make the distance between them more even.

"We could therefore show that Neanderthals made etches with the intent of creating a visually harmonious—and perhaps symbolic—motif," said researcher Francesco d'Errico, a paleontologist with the University of Bordeaux, and lead author of the study in the journal PLOS ONE.

"There was at least some esthetic reason for these marks because of their regularity, and the act of producing this in a deliberate manner requires a certain level of expertise," he told AFP.

The study was described as "the first that provides direct evidence to support a symbolic argument for intentional modifications on a bird bone," said a statement from the journal.

Neanderthals lived around 200,000 years ago, and existed alongside modern man for about 10,000 years.

Scientists say the last trace of Neanderthals goes back about 38,000 years.

But they have not totally disappeared. Due to interbreeding with modern people, humans inherited between two and four percent of Neanderthal genes.

Explore further: New evidence suggests ancient jewelry at Grotte du Renne cave made by Neanderthals

More information: Majki A, Evans S, Stepanchuk V, Tsvelykh A, d'Errico F (2017) A decorated raven bone from the Zaskalnaya VI (Kolosovskaya) Neanderthal site, Crimea. PLoS ONE 12(3): e0173435. … journal.pone.0173435

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3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2017
Hmmm..could have sworn that was spelled aesthetics. You live and you learn.
Captain Stumpy
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 30, 2017
Hmmm..could have sworn that was spelled aesthetics. You live and you learn.
it's both

based on my personal observations this is similar to the American versus Queen's English issues in other words like: Orthopaedics, Encyclopaedia
5 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2017
Either spelling is accepted by most dictionaries. "ae" seems to be most common in British English, while "e" seems to be primarily an American spelling.

The same thing can be found in a lot of words, where England uses "ae" and America just the "e".

Stumpy: You posted while I was typing!
5 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2017
Maybe said neanderal just wanted a back scratcher.....
Mar 30, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
1 / 5 (5) Mar 30, 2017
I posted remark indicating more sophisticated reasons: Game-playing.

It was removed by a "moderator".
Uncle Ira
5 / 5 (4) Mar 30, 2017
I posted remark indicating more sophisticated reasons: Game-playing.
He was a goofy posted remark.

It was removed by a "moderator".
You should be grateful the nice peoples at physorg did not remove you.
Uncle Ira
5 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2017
I notice this one of those PLOS ONE science papers. Is that why the dates of how long the Neanderthal-Skippy lived with the Modern-Skippys are wrong. I thought we were around a lot longer than just 50,000 years ago. Maybe I am reading him wrong like I sometimes do.
not rated yet Mar 31, 2017
We were around a lot longer than 50 KYs, but not in Europe. Before then, we were primarily an African species, while the Neandertals had Europe and western Asia. The Denisovans were in Asia, but we don't yet know exactly how they were related to Neandertals, or to us.

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