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PLoS One. 2014 Jul 10;9(7):e101278. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101278. eCollection 2014.

Convergent evidence of eagle talons used by late Neanderthals in Europe: a further assessment on symbolism.

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Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici, Sezione di Scienze Preistoriche e Antropologiche, Corso Ercole I d'Este 32, Ferrara, Italy.
CNRS, PACEA UMR5199, Université de Bordeaux, Talence, France.
UMR 7269 LAMPEA, Université Aix-Marseille, Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l'Homme, Aix-en-Provence, France.
Neanderthal Museum, Mettmann, Germany.
Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES), Zona Educacional 4 - Campus Sescelades URV, Tarragona, Spain.
CNRS, UMR 5608, Université de Toulouse 2 le Mirail, Maison de la Recherche Bât 26, Toulouse, France.


To contribute to have a better understanding of the symbolic or not use of certain items by Neanderthals, this work presents new evidence of the deliberate removal of raptor claws occurred in Mediterranean Europe during the recent phases of the Mousterian. Rio Secco Cave in the north-east of Italy and Mandrin Cave in the Middle Rhône valley have recently produced two golden eagle pedal phalanges from contexts not younger than 49.1-48.0 ky cal BP at Rio Secco and dated around 50.0 ky cal BP at Mandrin. The bones show cut-marks located on the proximal end ascribable to the cutting of the tendons and the incision of the cortical organic tissues. Also supported by an experimental removal of large raptor claws, our reconstruction explains that the deliberate detachment occurred without damaging the claw, in a way comparable at a general level with other Mousterian contexts across Europe. After excluding that these specimens met the nutritional requirements for human subsistence, we discuss the possible implications these findings perform in our current knowledge of the European Middle Palaeolithic context.

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