175,000-year-old underground Neanderthal stone circle

Structure discovered in 1990s is ten times older than Lascaux cave paintings

Bruniquel Cave in southwest France was discovered by members of a local caving club in 1990. The cave’s entrance had been sealed by a landslide during the last Ice Age, but the cavers re-opened a narrow 30m (100 ft.) passage leading into a main gallery of chambers rich in stalagmites and stalactites. Some 336 m (1,000 ft.) from the entrance, they found strange complex of stone circles, constructed from broken stalagmites. Intrigued by the discovery, the cavers brought in archaeologist Francois Rouzaud to investigate. Continue reading

130,000 year old Neanderthal eagle talon necklace predates H. sapiens influence

Does evidence from Krapina, Croatia refutes ‘bow wave’ theory?

The popular view of the Neanderthals as dimwits has been in trouble for years, as evidence for Neanderthal symbolic behaviour has continued to accumulate. Up until now, however, it is not been possible to unequivocally rule out the influence of modern humans, who reached Europe around 46,000 years ago. The Châtelperronian culture for example, long put forward as evidence of Neanderthal behavioural modernity, has now been shown not to have begun until after the arrival of modern humans. It is assumed that the Neanderthals simply borrowed the trappings of modernity from their new neighbours.

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Homo erectus engraved abstract patterns on seashells

500,000-year-old shells provide earliest yet evidence for symbolic behaviour

Archaeologists studying freshwater mussel shells excavated in the nineteenth century at Trinil, Java, have discovered geometric patterns carved by Homo erectus 500,000 years ago and unambiguous evidence that one shell had been sharpened and polished for use as a cutting tool. In addition, the number of large adults in the shell assemblage suggests that they were intentionally collected for eating.

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Neanderthal rock engraving

Important evidence for symbolic behaviour from Gorham’s Cave, Gibraltar

Archaeologists from the Gibraltar Caves project have found a rock engraving at Gorham’s Cave on the eastern side of Gibraltar. The deeply-etched cross-hatched pattern is carved into the dolomite bedrock of the cave, and was wholly-covered by an undisturbed archaeological level containing Mousterian artefacts. Thus its association with Neanderthals is secure.

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Comment on Villa & Roebroeks (2014) ‘An Archaeological Analysis of the Modern Human Superiority Complex’.

A paper by Paola Villa and Wil Roebroeks ( 1) in the open access journal PLOS ONE has reviewed archaeological evidence for the view that the ‘inferiority’ of Neanderthals to modern humans was responsible for their demise.  See this post for a quick summary.
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