Sunday, August 27, 2017

A NEANDERTAL NOTCHED BONE:


http://www.newslocker.com/en-uk/profession/archaeology/2017-03-31/
Public domain.

I have periodically presented material that is not actually rock art as we usually define it, but I have always been able to convince myself (and hopefully you) that this material had bearing on some aspect of rock art. Some examples are past columns about aspects of Neandertal culture and evidence of their ability to plan and think symbolically (for previous examples click on Neandertal in the cloud index at the bottom of the blog). A recent paper published on PLOS Online titled A Decorated Raven Bone From the Zaskalnaya VI (Kilosovskaya) Neanderthal Site, Crimea, by Ana Majkic, Sara Evans, Vadim Stepanchuk Alexander Twvelykh, and Francesco d'Errico, and appearing March 29, 2017, discussed a raven bone that bears a row of human created notches. The authors state that "This object represents the first instance of a bird bone from a Neanderthal site bearing modifications that cannot be explained as the result of butchery activities and for which a symbolic argument can be built on direct rather than circumstantial evidence." (Majkic et al 2017) In other words, these are obviously not butchery cuts, they were made purposefully and as the result of thought, analysis, and decision.



Closeup views of notched bone,
media.eurekalert.org.
Public Domain.

"Microscopic analysis of the notches indicate that they were produced by the to-and-fro movement of a lithic cutting edge and that two notches were added to fill in the gap left between previously cut notches, probably to increase the visual consistency of the pattern". (Majkic et al 2017)




Replication experiment,
media.eurekalert.org
Public Domain.


The authors replicated the creation of the notches by sawing a chipped stone edge back and forth on a modern turkey bone to test their assumptions. They concluded that the marks were intentional and not accidentally produced by butchering the raven for food or other purpose. "Previous studies of altered bird bones at Neanderthal sites have caused researchers to argue that the objects were used as personal ornaments. But this is the first direct evidence to support a symbolic argument for the modifications of bird bones." (dailymail.co.uk 2017)
                                  
"This object represents the first instance of a bird bone from a Neanderthal site bearing modifications that cannot be explained as the result of butchery activities and for which a symbolic argument can be built on direct rather than circumstantial evidence." (dailymail.co.uk 2017)

It seems most likely that this raven bone was being altered for purposes of human adornment, to be used as a hair pin or pendant. Now we have  more proof of purposeful planning among the Neandertal, a very human trait, and one that should force many people to rethink their assumptions about Neandertal culture. Perhaps they were us after all.

NOTE: Images in this posting were retrieved from the internet after a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below.

REFERENCES:



http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371.journal.pone.0173435

http://www.media.eurekalert.org.

http://www.newslocker.com/en-uk/profession/archaeology/2017-03-31/.

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