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article imageNeanderthal art in Gibraltar unveils the iconic 'hashtag'

By Anne Sewell     Sep 4, 2014 in Science
Gibraltar - Anyone who thinks the hashtag character is recent didn't know the Neanderthals. Recent discoveries in the British territory of Gibraltar have uncovered stone carvings resembling either "tic-tac-toe" or the proverbial hashtag character itself.
Thought to have been engraved some 40,000 years ago by Neanderthals, this iconic carving was discovered by archaeologists working in a cave in Gibraltar. It seems our ancestors also had a liking for the criss-cross pattern, which nowadays is more likely to appear in either the well-known game of "noughts and crosses" played in the UK, also known as "tic-tac-toe," or more recently in the form of a Twitter hashtag.
The importance of this find, however, is that scientists say this is proof that Neanderthals were capable of “subtle symbolic thought,” a theory previously dismissed by the experts.
Professor Joaquín Rodríguez-Vidal of the University of Huelva is one of the leading researchers on the project and he told the New Scientist online magazine, "Creating paintings or carvings in caves is seen as a cognitive step in human development," adding, "This behaviour was considered exclusive to modern humans and has been used as an argument to distinguish our direct ancestors from ancient man, including Neanderthals."
Reportedly the engraved artwork was originally discovered in Gorham's cave in Gibraltar back in 2012 by Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum. Not only were eight rock engravings of this nature found, in an area covering about 3 sq meters (10 square feet), however, as Finlayson and his team of archaeologists also discovered 294 stone tools, which dated back at least 39,000 years ago.
Francesco d'Errico, director of research at the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Bordeaux, was also involved in the work and he told the BBC:
"[Dolomite] is a very hard rock, so it requires a lot of effort to produce the lines," adding that he estimates a full engraving would have needed 200-300 strokes with a stone-cutting tool, and would have taken a minimum of one hour to create.
"If you did it in a single session, you would most probably injure your hand, unless you cover your tool with a piece of skin," he said, adding that the carving was located in a very visible location in the cave, but that, "It does not necessarily mean that it is symbolic - in the sense that it represents something else - but it was done on purpose."
The latest findings once again disprove the original theory that Neanderthals were mere simple-minded brutes without the capability of abstract thought or reasoning.
According to the BBC, recent findings also suggest that Neanderthals intentionally buried their dead and were apparently known to adorn their bodies with feathers and black and red pigments. It has also been discovered that their diet was much more varied than previously thought.
More about Gibraltar, Neanderthal, stone art, Rock art, hashtag
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