How far back can we go in the conceptualization of jewelry as a human construct? Are we placing modern ideals on ancient peoples, or is there a legitimate basis for the proliferation of consistent behaviors as far back as Neanderthals? These are important questions when thinking about jewelry.
With this in mind, the relatively recent findings of eagle
talons strung together in Croatia has led anthropologists to posit that
the talons were a form of jewelry.
To many, Neanderthals represent a primitive being incapable of higher thought. Essentially animalistic, these ancient precursors to modern man are thought to have awareness close to that of any advanced animal species (such as primates). Such beings surely could not appreciate jewelry?
Yet the talons found in a 130,000 year old Neanderthal cave in Croatia appear to show just this- these people wore the talons in a similar way modern human wear jewelry.
So what was the purpose of this? One of the most popular theories for jewelry’s place in society is that it forms a status symbol. Just as today’s aristocracy may wear diamonds, did these prehistoric beings wear eagle talons as a symbol of notoriety, achievement, to attract a mate?