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Neanderthals Made Fashionable Jewelry From Animal Teeth, Shells

First Posted: Sep 28, 2016 06:24 AM EDT
Ancient Beads
Neanderthals are now found to have the brainpower to make fine artifacts like beads and jewelry from bones, teeth and eggs of animals. Flickr/A.Davey CC BY 2.0

Modern human relatives, the Neanderthals had a very amazing talent of making old fashioned jewelry beads out of animal teeth, shell and ivory. This discovery is a momentous find for Neanderthal species since it was only suggested that they had a share in symbolic expression. But it is now proven that they have the ability to make art as old as 30,000 years ago.

According to lead researcher Frido Welker, some of the last members of the Neanderthals were traced in Europe and were found to make artifacts. But there isn't any material culture from the species found at that time. Welker is a Ph.D. student of human evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

(Photo : Marian Vanhaeren via Livescience.com)

They found the 'jewelry' in the bony remains located in the Grotte du Renne cave in Arcy-sur-Cure which is just southeast of Paris. The cave was discovered in 1949 where its contents were dated to as old as 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. This was the same period when modern humans started sweeping across the European continent and displacing Neanderthals.

Many experts questioned why the beads were credited to the Neanderthals when they are known to have no brainpower to craft such intricate items. It was reported by Phys.org that the excavation team also wondered the same so the researchers tried to answer that question once and for all.

Welker emailed the Live Science and said they wanted to know if the archaeological culture called Chatelperronian came from the Neanderthals or modern humans. If it came from humans, then they must have been one of the oldest human inhabitants of Europe and they played an important role in Neanderthal extinction.

The team investigated the protein sequence of the ancient bone fragments since there was not enough DNA preserved to conduct a thorough analysis. They used different spectrometric techniques and other testing methods and found that the bones came from the Neanderthals. Even one of the proteins found in the bones came contain a certain type of collagen only found in growing bones, which may have been an infant's who may have been breast-fed because of the kind of nitrogen isotope found in its proteins.

Welker said it is now the archaeologists' problem to try and explain how this occurred. Is it possible that they learned bead making from modern humans? Because modern humans and the Neanderthals did interbreed, which is found in our DNA. Or it may be possible that they invented or imitated the artifacts alone.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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