Research ArticleANTHROPOLOGY

The Châtelperronian Neanderthals of Cova Foradada (Calafell, Spain) used imperial eagle phalanges for symbolic purposes

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Science Advances  01 Nov 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 11, eaax1984
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax1984

Abstract

Evidence for the symbolic behavior of Neanderthals in the use of personal ornaments is relatively scarce. Among the few ornaments documented, eagle talons, which were presumably used as pendants, are the most frequently recorded. This phenomenon appears concentrated in a specific area of southern Europe during a span of 80 thousand years. Here, we present the analysis of one eagle pedal phalange recovered from the Châtelperronian layer of Foradada Cave (Spain). Our research broadens the known geographical and temporal range of this symbolic behavior, providing the first documentation of its use among the Iberian populations, as well as of its oldest use in the peninsula. The recurrent appearance of large raptor talons throughout the Middle Paleolithic time frame, including their presence among the last Neanderthal populations, raises the question of the survival of some cultural elements of the Middle Paleolithic into the transitional Middle to Upper Paleolithic assemblages and beyond.

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