The piece is said to be more than 51,000 years old and shows an incised angle pattern made up of six notches. It shows “that there is a plan, an intention behind this angle pattern,” said excavation manager Dirk Leder to the NDR in Lower Saxony. The ability to communicate through symbols makes the Neanderthals very similar to humans. The researchers suspect that the symbols should also be used to convey knowledge or tell a story.
Neanderthals with “amazing cognitive abilities”
In any case, the bone was decorated – long before Homo Sapiens came to Europe. “This speaks for an independent development of the creative power of the Neanderthal man,” said archaeologist Thomas Terberger: “Here, with the beginning, we are dealing with the dawn of art.” Archaeologist Terberger added that the bone can also be put down, there is a pattern of four more short notches at the bottom. The find is an indication that the Neanderthals had an aesthetic sense and probably communicated via symbols. This indicates that Neanderthals already had amazing cognitive abilities, according to the University of Göttingen.
Jewelry known so far only from France
The research team has published its findings in the journal “Nature Ecology and Evolution”. The Neanderthals, the genetically closest relative of humans, were long considered to be comparatively primitive. So far, few pendants and claws made by Neanderthals had been found as jewelry objects in France, as well as abstract motifs on cave walls in Spain. The find from the unicorn cave is one of the most complex forms of artistic expression known to date by Neanderthals, writes the London researcher Silvia Bello in a commentary in the specialist journal.
Bone is more than 51,000 years old
The bone was found last year during an excavation by the Lower Saxony State Office for Monument Preservation under the remains of hunting prey in the entrance area of the unicorn cave. It was lying with the decoration facing down, which is why the carving was only discovered when the piece was cleaned. The toe bone is almost six inches long, just under four inches wide and about three inches thick. Scientists at the University of Kiel determined an age of more than 51,000 years using the radiocarbon method. This makes the find much older than the 40,000 year old jewelry objects from France.
Giant deer bones deliberately chosen for carving?
Antje Schwalb from the Technical University of Braunschweig, who is involved in the research project, assumes that the Neanderthals deliberately chose the giant deer bone for his carving. The giant deer’s antlers had a wingspan of up to four meters.