Neanderthals: 51,000-year-old bone proves they were very creative

Researchers have discovered a majestically carved Neanderthal bone in the Unicorn Cave (Einhornhöhle) in the Harz Mountains in northern Germany. Among a series of well-preserved Neanderthal artifacts found at the entrance to the cave, this bone features a pattern of sculpted lines that stands out in particular.

Carved deer bone, Neanderthal
Deer bone carved by Neanderthals. Image V. Minkus, Lower Saxony Office for Heritage

Stereotypes about Neanderthals keep changing over time. Since its discovery in 1856, our common ancestor has long suffered from negative judgments compared to modern man. Archaeological progress has shown for several years that it was actually of a human species endowed with a certain cultural development.

In a report published on Nature, a team of researchers describes their astonishing discovery. They have indeed found a engraved and carved deer phalanx, dated at least 51,000 years ago, found at the ancient entrance to the Einhornhöhle cave in northern Germany. Neanderthals are known to have carved tools and weapons, but the markings in this deer bone suggest another level of consciousness and imagination.

Neanderthals, a human species with a conceptual imagination

While there is substantial evidence that art existed among early Homo sapiens across Africa and Eurasia, similar evidence related to Neanderthals is often scarce and disputed in scientific debates. Each new discovery is therefore crucial for our understanding of their cognitive abilities.

This week, the discovery of a bone majestically carved by Neanderthals 51,000 years ago in Germany once again demonstrates that it was a human species able to create and reproduce symbolic expressions.

See also: Neanderthals would have been at war with our ancestors for 100,000 years

« We quickly realized that they were not marks made during the butchering of the animal, but that they were clearly decoratives, ”said excavation manager Dirk Leder of the Lower Saxony National Heritage Office, in a statement.

The bone found presents a geometric pattern composed of two sets of intertwined lines which, according to scientists, were obtained by a vertical cut followed by scraping. The researchers calculated the age of the bone using the carbon-14 dating.

You can admire the bone in 3D at this address. And find the full report here.

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