Bone sculptures show Neanderthals’ ability to think symbolically


Neanderthal bone carving.

Neanderthal bone carving.
image: V. Minkus / National League for Democracy

The design deliberately on the bones of the giant deer further proves that Neanderthals have the ability to think symbolically.

Neanderthals decorate themselves feather,painted Cave paintingsAnd from Eagle High Heels, So it’s not surprising to learn that Neanderthals also carved patterns on bones.Found this 55,000-year-old bone sculpture as description In natural ecology and evolution, it is further evidence of the complex behavior of Neanderthals.

Silvia Bello, an archaeologist at the Natural History Museum in London, explained in a related article: “The evidence of art decoration shows that objects are produced or modified for symbolic reasons, not just It is functionality, which adds a new dimension to the complex cognitive abilities of Neanderthals.” New and Perspectives article.

The sculpture was discovered at the Einhornhöhle archaeological site in the Harz Mountains in northern Germany. Its line pattern consists of six etchings, forming five stacked V shapes. The study was led by the archaeologist Dirk Leder of the Lower Saxony Bureau of Cultural Heritage in Hanover, Germany. The study stated that “parallel and regularly spaced sculptures are of considerable size and are likely to be created in a uniform manner. , Indicating that it was intentional.”

Grayscale image made from a micro-CT scan of the relic. A total of 10 etchings were found on the bones, of which 6 (shown in red) were used to create a V-shaped pattern.

Grayscale image made from a micro-CT scan of the relic. A total of 10 etchings were found on the bones, of which 6 (shown in red) were used to create a V-shaped pattern.
image: National League for Democracy

Radiocarbon dating places a 2.2-inch-long toe bone in the mid-Paleolithic period. Homo sapiens To the area. According to research, microscopic analysis of the fossil showed that it was boiled before being etched, which may have been to soften the bones before carving. The researchers wrote in the study that these markings are not like the cuts normally associated with slaughter, and the decorated items “have no practical use.” Considering that giant deer north of the Alps are very rare during this period, the carving may have important symbolic significance. However, the exact meaning of these patterns is anyone’s guess.

It is not certain that the bone carvings were made by Neanderthals.Genetic evidence The anatomically modern humans proposed earlier this year arrived in Central Europe about 45,000 years ago, which is about 6,000 years later than the engraving time.This apparent time gap indicates that the artifact belongs to Neanderthal, but implies that it is not completely unreliable Homo sapiens Produced or may have influenced the creation of this artwork.

Belo, who was not involved in the new research, said: “We cannot rule out similar early knowledge exchanges between modern people and Neanderthals, which may have affected the production of Einhornhöhle sculptures.” However, this possibility, namely Neanderthals learned this skill from modern people without degrading their cognitive abilities.

“On the contrary, the ability to learn, to integrate innovation into one’s own culture, and to adapt to new technologies and abstract concepts should be regarded as an element of behavioral complexity,” Bello wrote. “In this case, the carved bones from Einhornhöhle brought the behavior of Neanderthals closer to the behavior of modern people. Homo sapiens. “

Of course, it is possible that the author of the new study is completely correct-Neanderthals are indeed responsible for bone carvings, and modern humans have nothing to do with it.In addition to the above cultural contributions, Neanderthals also engage in many other complex behaviors, such as Taking care of disabled relatives, Bury their dead, with Take care of their teethTherefore, it is not an easy task for Neanderthals to carve patterns on bones.

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