130,000 years ago, Neanderthals cut talons from the legs of the fierce white-tailed eagle, polished and burnished them, and may have worn them as jewelry.

The team of researchers (led by Davorka Radovcic) are not the first to discover talons that were kept and modified by Neanderthals (see also Birds of a Feather: Neanderthal Exploitation of Raptors and Corvids). However, this is the largest and clearest collection of modified talons, and many of the talons have groove marks that suggest they were strung together in a necklace or jewelry arrangement.

This adds further compelling evidence to a picture of Neanderthals as culturally complex beings, with art, stories, cave paintings, jewelry, and more.

Did Neanderthals, then watching the stars, "take grace and inspiration to explore the plan of heaven and earth?" Or did abstract thought and curiosity indeed awaken only in the "fifty-thousand years between the mind Neanderthal's and Shelley's"?


Neanderthal (excerpt)

Edgar Lee Masters

"Men of to-day make monstrous war, sleep, sup,

Traffic, build shrines, as earliest history

Records the earliest day, and that the race

Is what it was in virtue, charity,

And nothing better.

But within this face

No light shone from that realm where Hindostan,

Delving in numbers, watching stars took grace

And inspiration to explore the plan

Of heaven and earth.

And of the scheme the test

Is not five thousand years, which leave the van

Just where it was, but this change manifest

In fifty thousand years between the mind

Neanderthal's and Shelley's."