Hermann Schaaffhausen, who examined the original find from the Neanderthal in 1857, introduced himself to the distant relatives of man. Image: Hermann Schaaffhausen ("The Neanderthal Fund", 1888)
Reading Neanderthals already used a kind of cosmetics to paint their fair-skinned body. This is suggested by pigment-containing materials found by French researcher Francesco d'Errico from the University of Bordeaux in settlement areas of Neanderthals. The lumps of pigment are shaped like pins whose tip must have drawn black lines on the skin, explains the researchers. If the Neanderthal man with the make-up has a symbolic language, then it suggests that he could speak correctly, the researchers believe.

d'Errico, together with Marie Soressi of the French Archeology Institute Inrap in Amiens found hundreds of black manganese pigment pieces in two excavation sites in the French Pech de l'Azé. "The lumps are typically five centimeters long and one centimeter wide, " says the scientist, who previously researched at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, against wissenschaft.de. This gives them the shape of pens with which the Neanderthal man could draw lines. That he must have pulled these lines on the skin, d'Errico and Soressi have proven with an experiment. They got fresh pieces of pigment and drew lines on stone, wood and skin. The abrasion sites of the pigment pieces then examined under the microscope. "The abrasion of the skin was like the found pieces, " explains Soressi.

Her colleague now suggests that Neanderthals could speak in a rudimentary way if they already had make-up symbolic. Because in order to pass on their body painting to other Neanderthals, they would have to explain the technique and meaning of the symbols. And that would only be possible through language, says d'Errico. His colleague Soressi is more cautious: "Were that right symbols?" She asks. "We do not know what the Neanderthals painted." So far, it is known that the Neanderthal had the genetic prerequisites for speech. Whether and how he could articulate, however, is controversial among researchers.

New Scientist, online service ddp / science.de? Martin Schäfer

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