Neanderthals from the Krapina cave site may have manipulated white-tailed eagle talons to make jewellery 130,000 years ago, according to a study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by David Frayer from University of Kansas along with colleagues from Croatia.
The researchers describe eight mostly complete white-tailed eagle talons from the Krapina Neanderthal site in present-day northern Croatia, which were discovered during excavations more than 100 years ago, and all derive from a single time period. However, researchers only recently recognised the cut marks on the bones as human manipulations.
Detailed records from the excavations helped clarify that the manipulated eagle talons were dated to at least 80,000 years earlier than any modern humans entered Europe, so there is no doubt that Neanderthals were responsible.
Part of a jewellery assemblage
Four talons bear multiple edge-smoothed cut marks, and eight show polishing facets or abrasion. Three of the largest talons have small notches at roughly the same place along the plantar surface. The authors suggest these features may form part of a jewellery assemblage, such as a necklace or bracelet.
“It’s really a stunning discovery. It’s one of those things that just appeared out of the blue. It’s so unexpected and it’s so startling because there’s just nothing like it until very recent times to find this kind of jewellery,” David Frayer said.
Read the full paper: Evidence for Neandertal Jewelry: Modified White-Tailed Eagle Claws at Krapina