A recent study suggests jewelry may have actually been invented by ancient Neanderthals.
It has been long-believed that Neanderthals did not accomplish much more than learning basic survival skills, but new research suggests their culture may have been richer than we thought, the University of Kansas reported.
A set of eagle talons discovered in Croatia and believed to be about 130,000 years old contain specific marks and polished areas, leading researchers to believe they were used as jewelry long before humans were believed to care about beauty. They were most likely made about 80,000 years before modern humans entered Europe, meaning Neanderthals are the only ones that could have made the ancient jewelry.
"Neanderthals are often thought of to be simple-minded mumbling, bumbling, stumbling fools," said David Frayer, a professor emeritus of anthropology who was part of the study. "But the more we know about them the more sophisticated they've become."
The eight white-tailed eagle bones were first discovered about a century ago, but researchers did not notice the tell-tale marks on them until now.
"There's just no doubt that they made it, and it was a necklace or bracelet or piece of jewelry," Frayer said.
The researchers said he was not only impressed with the Neanderthals' ability to build jewelry, but also to have the hunting skills to capture the three or four eagles used to make it.
"It really shows a level of technical sophistication, too," Frayer said.
"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 jewelry. It's associated with fossils that people don't like to consider to be human," he concluded.
The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal PLOS ONE.