In DepthArchaeology

Neandertals made jewelry, proteins confirm

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Science  23 Sep 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6306, pp. 1350
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6306.1350

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The "necklaces" are tiny: beads of animal teeth, shells, and ivory no more than a centimeter long. But they provoked an outsized debate that has raged for decades. Found in the Grotte du Renne cave at Arcy-sur-Cure in central France, they were reportedly found in the same layers as fossils from Neandertals. Some archaeologists credited the artifacts, described as part of the Châtelperronian culture, to our archaic cousins. But others argued that Neandertals were incapable of the kind of symbolic expression reflected in jewelry and insisted that modern humans must have been the creators. Now, a pioneering study uses ancient proteins to identify Neandertal bone fragments from Grotte du Renne for direct radiocarbon dating. The team finds that the link between the archaic humans and the artifacts is real.