Legend of the image: left: notched raven bone from Zaskalnaya VI Neanderthal site, Crimea. center: experimental notching of a bird bone; right: sequences of experimentally made notches compared to those from Zaskalnaya VI.
Credit: Francesco d’Errico; CCAL
The cognitive abilities of Neanderthals are debated, but a raven bone fragment found at the Zaskalnaya VI (ZSK) site in Crimea features two notches that may have been made by Neanderthals intentionally to display a visually consistent pattern, according to a study by Ana Majkic at the Universite de Bordeaux and colleagues, published in the open access journal, PLOS ONE on March 29, 2017.
Researchers concluded that the two extra notches on the ZSK raven bone may have been made by Neanderthals intentionally to create a visually consistent, and perhaps symbolic, pattern.
A series of recent discoveries of altered bird bones across Neanderthal sites has caused many researchers to argue that the objects were used for personal ornaments, as opposed to butchery tools or activities. But this study is the first that provides direct evidence to support a symbolic argument for intentional modifications on a bird bone.
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Ana Majkić, Sarah Evans, Vadim Stepanchuk, Alexander Tsvelykh, Francesco d’Errico. A decorated raven bone from the Zaskalnaya VI (Kolosovskaya) Neanderthal site, Crimea. PLOS ONE, 2017; 12 (3): e0173435 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0173435