Nasty, brutish and artsy? Neanderthal hashtag engraving found
Published on Sep 2, 2014 1:46 AM
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Belying their reputation as the dumb cousins of early modern humans, Neanderthals created cave art, an activity regarded as a major cognitive step in the evolution of humankind, scientists reported on Monday in a paper describing the first discovery of artwork by this extinct species.
The discovery is "a major contribution to the redefinition of our perception of Neanderthal culture," said prehistorian William Rendu of the French National Centre for Scientific Research, who was not involved in the work. "It is a new and even stronger evidence of the Neanderthal capacity for developing complex symbolic thought" and "abstract expression,"abilities long believed exclusive to early modern humans.
In recent years researchers have discovered that Neanderthals buried their dead, adorned themselves with black and red pigments, wore shell and feather jewellery and cared for the elderly and infirm, all evidence of complex thought. But no unambiguously Neanderthal art was ever found.
The new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could change that. Researchers from 11 European institutions reported that deep in Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, they found carvings that resemble nothing so much as a rococo Twitter hashtag: eight partially crisscrossing lines with three shorter lines on the right and two on the left, incised on a shelf of bedrock jutting out from the wall about 40 cm above the cave floor.
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