Neanderthals Were More Creative Than We Initially Thought – and a 51,000-Year-Old Carved Bone Can Prove It

Neanderthals Were More Creative Than We Initially Thought – and a 51,000-Year-Old Carved Bone Can Prove It

Neanderthals might have been more sophisticated than we ever believed. And we found a 51,000-year-old deer bone to prove it.

Researchers found a small toe bone at the Unicorn Cave in northern Germany. There, they also found well-preserved Neanderthal artefacts, and a bone that has a pattern of curved lines. These lines are not marks from butchering an animal – they are decorative. The study published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution says a lot about this discovery.

We have learned that the phalanx shows a geometric pattern made out of two interlaced sets of lines. Researchers believe that these lines were made through vertical cutting and then scraping. Scientists learned more about the age of the bone by using radiocarbon dating. This object must have been carved by Neanderthals, who lived between 430,000 and 40,000 years ago. They are the closest species to humans.

Neanderthals had carved tools and weapons made out of birch tar. However, the marks on the bone show they had a rich imagination.

The study says: “While there is substantial evidence for art and symbolic behaviour in early Homo sapiens across Africa and Eurasia, similar evidence connected to Neanderthals is sparse and often contested in scientific debates. Each new discovery is thus crucial for our understanding of Neanderthals’ cognitive capacity.” 

The bone is a giant deer, which is now an extinct species of around 6 feet and 11 inches. They had the largest antlers of any deer known. Researchers came to the conclusion that humans boiled the bone in order to soften it and to provide enough firm grip.

Scientists believe this is no coincidence that Neanderthals chose this bone to carve.


Anna is an avid blogger with an educational background in medicine and mental health. She is a generalist with many other interests including nutrition, women's health, astronomy and photography. In her free time from work and writing, Anna enjoys nature walks, reading, and listening to jazz and classical music.

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