Is This the World’s Oldest Necklace?

Photo by Luka Mjeda, courtesy of University of Kansas

The Neanderthal necklace

Researchers from the University of Kansas have determined that pieces of 130,000-year-old eagle talon unearthed 100 years ago in Croatia had actually been part of a necklace created by Neanderthals.

Close examination of the set of eagle talons found marks and polishing facets that revealed they had been manipulated into jewelry.

“Neanderthals are often thought of to be simple-minded mumbling, bumbling, stumbling fools,” David Frayer, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Kansas, said. “But the more we know about them, the more sophisticated they’ve become. There’s just no doubt that they made it, and it was a necklace or bracelet or piece of jewelry.”

Humans date to 200,000 years ago, but the site of the discovery did not have human inhabitants until 80,000 years after the talons were marked up. Previous discoveries date the oldest jewelry to nearly 100,000 years ago, but always in areas where humans existed. This necklace is the first evidence that Neanderthals also created jewelry.