Neanderthals 'wore make-up, shell jewellery'

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Washington, Jan 12 (ANI): Neanderthals loved make-up as much as today's women do, and wore accessories to decorate themselves and dress up, scientists have found.

The research from the University of Bristol published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences challenges the widespread view of Neanderthals as cognitively inferior to early modern humans.

To reach the conclusion, Professor João Zilhão and colleagues examined pigment-stained and perforated marine shells, most certainly used as neck pendants, from two Neanderthal-associated sites in the Murcia province of south-east Spain (Cueva de los Aviones and Cueva Antón). The analysis of lumps of red and yellow pigments found alongside suggest they were used in cosmetics.

Archaeologists consider the practice of body ornamentation as conclusive evidence for modern behaviour and symbolic thinking.

Professor Zilhão said: "This is the first secure evidence that, some 50,000 years ago - ten millennia before modern humans are first recorded in Europe - the behaviour of Neanderthals was symbolically organised."

A Spondylus gaederopus shell from the same site contained residues of a reddish pigmentatious mass made of lepidocrocite mixed with ground bits of hematite and pyrite (which, when fresh, have a brilliant black, reflective appearance), suggesting the kind of inclusion 'for effect' that one would expect in a cosmetic preparation.

The choice of a Spondylus shell as the container for such a complex recipe may relate to the attention-grabbing crimson, red, or violet colour and exuberant sculpture of these shells, which have led to their symbolic- or ritual-related collection in a variety of archaeological contexts worldwide. (ANI)

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