From the beginning of recorded history, there is proof that humans have been preoccupied with designing jewelry and ornaments. This practice was not unknown to Neanderthals, who are known to have used eagle talons as the primal elements to make jewelry. Approximately 120,000 years ago, this habit started to become popular around Southern Europe, as well.
Recently, an unprecedented discovery has been made by researchers in the Iberian Peninsula. The evidence shows that early humans in the area used eagle talons for ornamental purposes.
The journal Science Advances Nov 1, 2019 issue featured an article that discusses the findings. The excavation site was located in the cave Foradada in Calafell. The author of the study, Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo from the Institute of Evolution in Africa (IDEA), was a member of the team that unearthed the Neanderthalian ornaments.
The discovery’s importance lies in the uniqueness of the items, as they seem to be the most modern ornamental pieces from the Neanderthal period. Even more, this type of jewelry has never been found in the Iberian Peninsula before. As Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo pointed out, this could be “the last necklace made by the Neanderthals.”
According to researchers, eagle talons were used by Neanderthals for aesthetic purposes since the mid-Paleolithic period.
The fragments discovered in Cova Foradada are bone remains from the left leg of a Spanish Imperial Eagle, dating back to around 40,000 years ago. For Neanderthals, eagle talons were of symbolic value, and they probably wore them as pendants around their neck.
The period that researchers believe the found remains date back to corresponds with the moment when the last Neanderthals in Europe met the Homo sapiens from Africa.
The Cova Faradada has been studied since 1997 when the first excavations began.