Decorated raven bone discovered in Crimea may provide insight into Neanderthal cognition
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.
|A Corvus corax bone fragment with notches from Zaskalnaya VI, layer III |
[Credit: Francesco d'Errico]
First, researchers conducted a multi-phase experiment where recruited volunteers were asked to create evenly spaced notches in domestic turkey bones, which are similar in size to the ZSK raven bone.
|Microscopic images of the notches on the Zaskalnaya VI bird bone |
fragment from layer III [Credit: Francesco d'Errico]
Archaeological specimens featuring aligned notches from different sites were also analyzed and compared with the ZSK raven bone specimen.
|Experimental notching of a bird bone; right: sequences of experimentally made notches |
compared to those from Zaskalnaya VI [Credit: Francesco d'Errico]
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.
Source: PLOS [March 30, 2017]