New fossil evidence suggests the Neanderthal practice of collecting eagle talons, which were likely worn as jewellery or used to create powerful symbols, was more extensive than previously thought.

Remarkably, the dating of these artefacts suggests modern humans might have copied this practice.

Evidence presented today in Science Advances bolsters a theory that suggests Neanderthals used eagle talons as symbolic decorations, which they may have worn as necklaces, earrings, or other forms of personal adornment.

Evidence of this practice among Neanderthals has been found elsewhere, but the new find – a lone eagle toe bone pulled from Spain's Foradada Cave – is the first to be found in the Iberian Peninsula.

What’s more, at 39,000 years old, it’s possibly the most “modern” known example of talon use among the Neanderthals, appearing just before they went extinct.

That said, another anthropologist says it’s unclear if these particular Neanderthals used eagle talons for symbolic or decorative reasons, and that more supporting evidence is needed.

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