Archaeologists found that the artifact was at least 51,000 years old before Homo Sapiens arrived in central Europe.
Researchers said Monday that the design is simple but that a chevron pattern was etched onto a bone from a deer more than 50,000 years old suggests that Neanderthals were artists long before modern humans.
Researchers say that the engraving was found in a German cave where Neanderthals lived many thousands of years ago. It has no apparent utility. However, they claim it sheds light on the creative abilities of the unfortunate species.
Most Stone-Age artworks found in Europe can be attributed to Homo sapiens. Experts have long suggested that Neanderthals were our closest relatives and that they only started creating symbolic objects by mixing them with Homo sapiens.
Radiocarbon dating was used by archaeologists to date the artifact, which is at least 51,000 years old, pre-dating the arrival Homo sapiens in central Europe. This research was published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.
The study concludes that H. sapiens' cultural influence is no longer the sole explanation for abstract cultural expressions among Neanderthals.
Dirk Leder, one of these authors and a researcher at Lower Saxony Office for Heritage Department of Archaeology told AFP that the bone clearly reflects a way of expression.
He stated, "We are convinced that communicating an idea, a story or something meaningful to a bunch communicates."
"No practical use"
The fossil was discovered at Einhornhoehleor, also known as "Unicorn Cave", an archaeological site.
This carving suggests that Neanderthals might have had an influence on Homo Sapiens, rather than the other way around.
Treasure hunters sought out the unicorn fossils in central Germany's mountains as early as the Middle Ages.
Scientists first discovered evidence of an Ice Age Neanderthal settlement at Einhornhoehle in the 1980s. The new bone was found in a dig below a cave entrance that collapsed in 2017, where artifacts were also discovered.
The bone is approximately half the size of a deck or playing cards. It measures approximately 5.5 cm long, 4 cm wide, and 3 centimetres thick.
It is a kind of chevron design with six intersecting diagonal lines that are intentionally carved into it.
The study concludes that the item is not practical.
"Instead, the central element is the geometric pattern."
According to the study, a series of experiments using cow bones to recreate the object showed that it had been boiled at least once before being sculpted with fluent.
The study states that "the complex production process that led to the creation and arrangement of the incisions, as well as their systematic arrangement, and the scarcity north of the Alps of giant deer support the idea of an intentional act and symbolic meaning."
The bone is described by Neanderthals as "one of the most complex cultural expressions"
Researchers said that Neanderthals were responsible for a few other discoveries made during the same period, including flint fragments, bedrock, and teeth deliberately marked with cross-hatch marks or zig-zag marks.
It says that the deer bone is "one of most complex cultural expressions in Neanderthals so far".
Leder stated that the Neanderthals' marked objects are not comparable to Homo sapiens art. This could be because they lived in smaller clusters and were more dispersed.
He said that it seemed to support the notion that the meaning of these symbols were not passed on to the next generation.
However, the Neanderthals may have left a lasting legacy because the discovery predates Homo sapiens.
Leder stated, "The idea was that the great Homo Sapiens was giving intelligent thoughts to other species."
He said, "In the last few years, a handful of newspapers are pushing the idea that there could have been another way."
Scientists discovered another important discovery in June that could change our understanding of human evolution. The skull of a large-brained male was almost perfect for over 140,000 years.
The "Dragon Man" discovery in northeastern China represents a new type of ancient people that is closer to us than Neanderthals.
Dirk Leder and colleagues, An engraved bone from 51,000 years ago that reveals Neanderthals' ability for symbolic behavior, Nature Ecology, Evolution (2021). Information from Nature Ecology & Evolution Dirk Leder et.al, An engraved bone that is 51,000 years old reveals Neanderthals' ability for symbolic behavior, (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-011-01487-z