The Use Of Marine Shells And Mineral Pigments By Iberian Neandertals

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Joao Zilhao, a research professor at Universitat de Barcelona, has conducted various experiments on the symbolic use of marine shells and mineral pigments by Iberian Neandertals (Zilhao et al., 2010). The use of symbolism and communicating through art and ritual has solely been attributed to humans, until recently. In Spain, seashells have shown faded tinges of hematite or iron ore. Also, holes were carefully perforated at the top of these shells and are thought to have been worn as adornments (Nick Clarke Powell & Alan Ritsko, 2013). The red mineral mixed inside these shells was used as a form of body decoration and perhaps social identification of particular groups (Zilhao et al., 2010). This sort of behavior has generally been identified with Upper Paleolithic culture and humans, however there has been emerging evidence from Africa, Iberia, and the Near East that both of these behaviors, body painting and adornment, more likely occurred first in the Middle Pleistocene age (Zilhao et al., 2010). The findings of these studies by Zilhao favor the insight that Neandertals had culture and were using this form of art to distinguish themselves from other bands of hominids as friend or foe (Nick Clarke Powell & Alan Ritsko, 2013). In contemporary society, this form of distinguishment can be observed in crowds of sport goers. Sports fanatics will paint their faces and bodies to represent the colors of their team as a show of solidarity, a unique form of symbolism. Neandertals…

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