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Neanderthal Shell Art

From Scientific American:

Newly discovered painted scallops and cockleshells in Spain are the first hard evidence that Neandertals made jewelry. These findings suggest humanity’s closest extinct relatives might have been capable of symbolism, after all.

Body ornaments made of painted and pierced seashells dating back 70,000 to 120,000 years have been found in Africa and the Near East for years, and serve as evidence of symbolic thought among the earliest modern humans (Homo sapiens). The absence of similar finds in Europe at that time, when it was Neandertal territory, has supported the notion that they lacked symbolism, a potential sign of mental inferiority that might help explain why modern humans eventually replaced them.

Although hints of Neandertal art and jewelry have cropped up in recent years, such as pierced and grooved animal-tooth pendants or a decorated limestone slab on the grave of a child, these have often been shrugged off as artifacts mixed in from modern humans, imitation without understanding, or ambiguous in nature. Now archaeologist João Zilhão at the University of Bristol in England and his colleagues have found 50,000-year-old jewelry at two caves in southeastern Spain, art dating back 10,000 years before the fossil record reveals evidence of modern humans entering Europe.

Full article

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An explosion of Neanderthals

A lot of research on Neanderthals has popped up lately.
A reconstruction of fetal and infant Neanderthals (picture of the natal Neanderthal here) finds that Neanderthals developed at either the same rate as us or even more slowly, increasing in size quickly as infants but possibly not reaching sexual maturity until later than modern humans. According to one quote, if humans were able to reproduce 1% more often than Neanderthals, we could effectively outbreed them in a (relatively) short matter of time.
And just in case you’re certain your father-in-law must have some Neanderthal lineage, one study of mitochondria DNA from Neanderthals has found that there is no mixing of Neanderthals and modern humans.
Speaking of distant relatives, a group found that chimps could tell when their friends needed hugs, and in doing so lowered their friend’s stress levels. While this behavior has been shown before, the researchers are saying this is the first time they could show that chimps recognized their friends’ stress and were empathetic to help.
Also, anthropologists on an island near the homo floresiensis site found bones dating from the same time that were normal human size. Does this mean that the Hobbit was a deformed freak? Who knows.

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In the good ol’ days…

When I was your age, grandkids, we lived in caves, and we walked everywhere in the snow, uphill, both ways. Why, back in my day, Neolithic women had fashion sense (study from 2007), not like today. Neanderthals created tools just as good as the cro magnon’s. Okay, maybe they weren’t as creative in their tools, but good work, they did.

Ah, *spit* you kids these days are all weak, you don’t get enough “dangerous” exercise, like chasing saber tooth cats around. Boy, those were the days.