Beautiful Bone Carving From 51,000 Years Ago Is Changing Our View of Neanderthals

We humans like to believe we are unique among the animals. Language allows us to communicate effectively with each other. Culture is a way to preserve and build knowledge over time. The technology and tools we use to solve problems is invaluable. Art and symbols reveal details about complex experiences.Evidence is growing that the traits we assume are unique to us may have once been present in our hominin relatives.Scientists announced today the discovery of an engraved giant deer bone that was 51,000 years old. It was made by Neanderthals from the Harz Mountains in northern Germany. The deer bone's carvings are artistically and precisely arranged in chevron patterns.Although there has not been much evidence to date of Neanderthals displaying artistic and symbolic traits, the new findings raise interesting questions about how complex Neanderthal behaviour might have been.These findings are in addition to research that has shown Neanderthals to have complex behavioral traits such as the ability to hear and produce the speech sounds of modern humans and the ability to create tools and technology. They also mourn the dead.Thomas Terberger, Dirk Leder and other archaeologists carbon-dated the bone of a deer, putting it at 51,000 year old. Experimental replication and microscopic analysis suggest that the bone was actually softened by boiling before engraving.The only evidence of Neanderthal art at Spanish sites La Pasiega and Maltravieso was minimalic motifs and hand-scanning on cave walls.According to the authors, the new study shows that individual lines of engraving in the chevron design are combined with the fact these megaloceros giganteus (giant deer) were very rare north of the alps at the time. This supports the notion that engravings can have symbolic meanings and provide evidence for conceptual imagination in Neanderthals."Archaeological finds of artistic engravings are rare and in some cases ambiguous. In a Nature News & Views article, Silvia Bello, a Natural History Museum London, writes that evidence of artistic decorations suggests production or modification of objects for symbolic purposes beyond just functionality.Bello adds that the choice of material, the preparation of the material before carving and the skilled technique used to engrave are all signs of advanced expertise and great bone working ability.This research asks whether ancient H. sapiens contemporaries were involved in the creation of this type carved bone.Leder, who works for the State Service for Cultural Heritage Lower Saxony with colleagues, believes that Neanderthals were able to create the artifact without any human intervention.Their hypothesis is supported by archaeological evidence that H. sapiens may have arrived in Central Europe many millennia ago, after the engraved bones were dated.Bello believes that H. sapiens may have had an influence on the production of these artifacts, given the evidence of the exchanging genes between Neanderthals, modern humans, and modern humans more than 50,000 years ago.She writes that "Given the early exchanges of genes, it is impossible to exclude a similar early exchange in knowledge between Neanderthal and modern human populations.""The potential for modern humans to acquire knowledge doesn't diminish the cognitive abilities of Neanderthals," I believe. The ability to learn, incorporate innovation into one's culture, and adapt to new technologies, abstract concepts, and other elements of behavioral complexity should be regarded as a part of behavioral complexity.The research was published by Nature Ecology and Evolution.