London, March 28 : Archaeologists have found crafted lumps of pigment at a site in France, left behind by Neanderthals across Europe, which indicates that the primitive race used make-up and could speak.
According to a report in New Scientist, the discovery was made by Francesco d'Errico, an archaeologist from the University of Bordeaux, France, who recovered hundreds of blocks of black manganese pigment from two neighbouring sites at Pech de l'Aze.
This site, which was occupied by Neanderthals, adds to evidence of pigment among Neanderthals from some 39 other sites.
"Neanderthals, who most likely had pale skin, used these dark pigments to mark their own as well as animal skins," said d'Errico.
"And, since body art is a form of communication, this implies that the Neanderthals could speak," he added.
The findings reveal that the pigments were not just smeared onto the body like camouflage, but fashioned into drawing tools.
"The flat, elongated surfaces on the archaeological specimens are consistent, as confirmed experimentally, with producing clearly visible straight black lines, perhaps arranged to produce abstract designs," said d'Errico.
Body painting, argues d'Errico, is a "material proxy" for symbolic communication.
What's more, he said, the techniques for making the symbols, and the meaning they carry, would have to be transmitted through language.
However, even if Neanderthals had language capabilities, that does not mean they spoke in the same way as humans.
"The archaeological record does not show that they ever attained the cultural level of the humans who could talk as we do," said Phillip Lieberman, a linguist at Brown University, Rhode Island, US.
"Neanderthals possessed language, but their linguistic and cognitive ability was inferior to the humans who replaced them," he added.