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Showing posts from September, 2012

All about the Avian: Neanderthals, feathers and symbolic practices

Ok so this is too cool not to write about straight away, although I have another post is waiting in the wings.
A new PLOS ONE paper, by a large team headed by Clive Finlayson, on Neanderthal exploitation of birds and feathers is really fascinating, and very convincing. There's been a flurry (or flutter?) of recent research looking at the reality of bird exploitation in the Middle Palaeolithic, and as the PLOS paper nicely summarises in its introduction, this is yet another of those things long held to be just too hard for Neanderthals to manage. Not only had the notion of using birds a food source been regarded as outside their capacities, but the possibility of other, more socially-motivated uses for avian resources was until recently not even considered.

This is despite the knowledge for a long time that bird remains were present at many Middle Palaeolithic sites, and there was even some direct evidence of carcass processing, with a preserved feather barbule on a stone tool at…