The discovery of a Spanish archaeological site with an unusually high number of fragmented but intact big-game skulls suggests that Neanderthals may have developed rituals focused on the skulls of their prey, challenging the idea that they were simply a beta-version of humanity. New research also suggests that Neanderthals may have been capable of complex symbolic concepts and behaviors.
New research into Neanderthal skulls found in a Spanish archaeological site suggests that they had the ability for complex symbolic behavior, potentially even developing rituals centered around the skulls of their prey. While Neanderthals have long been considered less successful than Homo sapiens, recent advances in archaeology have shown that the gaps between the two species have narrowed. While Homo sapiens made bows and arrows at least 80,000 years ago, Neanderthals did not have the capacity for such extended craft projects. However, evidence suggests that Neanderthals did possess an interest in color, combining and mixing mineral pigments to create orange, and producing “painted” objects. Engravings and pigments by Neanderthals demonstrate an intention to alter how surfaces were perceived, possibly in a tactile way. Applying the term “art” to these objects can be tricky, but the evidence does suggest that Neanderthals’ lives went beyond simple survival-based behavior.