Even though tooth injuries were a burden for the sufferer, they give us evidence today about the work-intensive life of the Neanderthals, which besides the production of hunting tools was also dedicated to the production of jewelry and clothing. The preparation of clothing as protection against the cold or as fashionable ice-age "accessory" using teeth and bone awls was presumed for a long time. That ice-age humans, whether modern humans or Neanderthals, used clothing both as cold protection and as a means of presentation was proven by the discovery of a c. 28,000-year-old burial site of an approximately 60-year-old man near
Sungir, about 150 kilometers east of Moscow. The grave, discovered in 1956, yielded a total of2936 pearls that had been sewn as decoration onto his clothing (Figure 20b). Bracelets, pendants made of mammoth ivory, and necklaces of mussel shells and animal teeth were found in the man's grave and also those of the two adolescents buried with him. They expressively reflect the ritual behavior and artistic creativity of ice-age humans. Such a find is especially fascinating for modern humans, who are surrounded by countless symbols in their communication with everyday life around them. But archaeologists find it extremely problematic to interpret such objects as evidence of a symbolic attitude, or even a concept of the hereafter or of a religion. Finds with bone scratches from the French digs at Arcy-sur-Cure and La Ferrassie or the 400,000-year-old scratches on an elephant rib from the Thuringian site Bilzingsleben, which have no clear function but are aesthetically appealing, are often interpreted as evidence of their creators' ritual attitudes. They bring up the question of when art had its beginning. Was it already the Neanderthal who began to portray his environment and himself in art? Or was Cro-Magnon Man, the modern human, the first who released his creative potential along the path of cave painting and the invention of musical instruments like the 30,000-year-old bone flute from Geissenklösterle? Are the scratches perhaps only signs of work, so that the elephant rib from Bilzingsleben was perhaps simply a work stand? Often, assertions that objects have a symbolic character seem to be based more on wishful thinking than on carefully thought-out and evidentially supported hypotheses. Nevertheless, objects repeatedly turn up even from the Lower Paleolithic Era (more than 200,000 years ago) that cannot be regarded simply as the result of simple tool working. Eye-catching materials such as lead, especially beautifully-formed stones, or a fossil sea urchin, found in the northern French cave of Merry-sur-Yonne, were apparently purposely collected and sometimes transported long distances—perhaps expressing an early-developed aesthetic sensitivity.
The oldest Neanderthal jewelry pieces come from the period 35,000 to c. 115,000 years bp. Among the extremely rare finds of this sort belong a partially drilled-through fox tooth from La Quina in the Charente (France). Other finds include a bored wolf tail vertebra from Bocksteinschmiede in the Lone Valley in Baden-Württemberg and a wolf tooth from Repolust Cave in Austria. Possible Neanderthal jewelry items also come from the French find site Grotte du Renne in Arcy-sur-Cure (Figure 17). These finds of bone and tooth remains, at 36 sites in all, can perhaps be valued as the crown jewels in the search for the Neanderthals' jewelry and artistic ability. The objects, with holes drilled in them and provided with grooves, were unearthed together with stone tools of the Chatelperronian, a tool
epoch that, as already mentioned, was for a long time attributed only to modern humans. After the discovery of part of a neanderthaloid skull, it is obvious that Neanderthals too displayed corresponding artistic ability and skill—if the jewelry really comes from the same find level.
Color pigments like red ochre or black manganese oxide also suggest possible ritual or artistic behavior. It is unclear how and why the Neanderthals used nature's palette—perhaps it was to paint their bodies or dye clothes. Another possibility is that they used natural colors to impregnate skins, which would certainly indicate that the Neanderthals had very highly developed technical abilities.
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