Neanderart08 Jan 2010
Alan Boyle reports on two new papers in PNAS. The first concerns the dental development of the Lagar Velho skeleton. The second verges on Neandertal art:
Some of the shells they found were perforated, as if they could be worn on a string. That in itself doesn't prove anything, because such perforations could occur naturally or as the result of harvesting the molluscs for consumption. But the scientists also saw signs of mineral-based pigments being applied to the shells, in some cases right over the jagged edge of a perforation. If the researchers' analysis is correct, the Neanderthals could have mixed up reddish goethite and hematite, yellow siderite and natrojarosite, black charcoal and sparkly pyrite to create a spectrum of paints. Some of the shells might have served as dishes holding the paint. The anthropologists even found a horse bone with flecks of orange pigment on the end.
I’ll have more on these. In the meantime, last year I posted on a similar topic (“Pigment use and symbolic behavior in Neandertals”).