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Feather finds hint at Neandertal art

Extinct human relatives may have gotten creative with plumage

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2:53pm, September 24, 2012

Neandertals may not have painted pictures on cave walls, but a new study proposes they had an artistic sensibility. These close Stone Age relatives of people regularly made personal and possibly ritual ornaments that included bird feathers.

Big-boned, slope-faced Neandertals shared with ancient humans a mental talent for using concrete objects — whether rock drawings or decorative feathers — to represent abstract ideas and beliefs, say evolutionary ecologist Clive Finlayson of the Gibraltar Museum and his colleagues.

Neandertals took a fancy to feathers on their own, several thousand years before encountering Stone Age people who also adorned themselves with plumage, the researchers contend in a paper published online September 17 in PLoS ONE.

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