Notched Raven Bone Provides New Insight into Neanderthal Cognition

By Nicole Loranger

A recently discovered raven bone has allowed for new discussion regarding the neanderthals’ cognition capacity. Found at the Zaskalnaya (ZSK) site in Crimea, this bone stands out due to the two notches engraved on its surface, notches that appear evenly spaced. Seeing this, researchers began to speculate that it may be the work of neanderthals that passed through the area, a hypothesis that would suggest a higher level of thinking ability than initially accepted. To verify the legitimacy of the artifact, researchers conducted an experiment where volunteers made equally spaced notches on turkey bones of similar size; the results indicated that, even when human accuracy errors were accounted for, the notches made in the raven bone were comparable to those made by the volunteers. The raven bone was further compared with bones from other archeological sites that have been etched in a similar manner. After examining all the available data, scientists confirmed that it is very possible these notches were in fact engraved by neanderthals, potentially in attempt to decorate the bone in a meaningful way.

Other finds similar to this have altogether led researchers to begin hypothesizing about the purpose for these decorated bones. According to the article, the leading prediction is “personal ornaments, as opposed to butchery tools or activities.” This particular finding however is one of the first suggesting an intentional modification of bird bones, leading some to conclude that neanderthals may have supported a greater mental capacity than generally given credit for.


PLOS. "A decorated raven bone discovered in Crimea may provide insight into Neanderthal cognition: Two extra notches found in raven bone may have been a symbolic addition." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2017. <>.