Rock with crystals points to behaviour of Neanderthals

Archaeologists discovered a piece of split limestone excavated over 100 years ago in Krapina, northern Croatia, suggesting that a Neanderthal collected the rock due to the crystal inclusions on the surface and brought it to the cave, possibly motivated by curiosity or intrigued by it, 130000 years ago.

The rock with arrow marking reddish-brown limonite staining (by David Frayer, University of Kansas)
The cave at the Krapina, where Neanderthal bones were found in the end of the 19th century, was made in sandstone, so the split limestone rock stuck out as not deriving from the cave.  Moreover, none of the more than 1000 lithic items collected from Krapina, during excavations conducted between 1899-1905, resemble the rock. The artefact is less than 12 centimetres long, 10 centimetres high and over 1 centimetre thick. It is covered with inclusions in form of black lines of dendrites, multi-branching crystal forms. It does not contain any striking surfaces or other areas of preparation on the rock’s edges. According to archaeologists, the fact that it was not modified into being a tool indicates that it was brought to the cave for other purpose. Only a small triangular flake broke from the rock but it is believed it happened after the artefact was deposited in the cave’s sediments or during transport in early 1900s.
Both sides of the rock with black dendrites, arrow points to large inclusion (by David Frayer, University of Kansas)

According to the researchers the find provides evidence that Neanderthals were capable—on their own—of incorporating symbolic objects into their culture. It is suspected that a Neanderthal collected the rock from a site a few kilometres north of the Krapina site where there were known outcrops of biopelmicritic grey limestone. It is also possible that a stream, such as the nearby Krapinica, transported it closer to the site. The discovery adds to the number of other recent studies about Neanderthals doing things, like collecting intriguing objects, that are thought to be unique to modern Homo sapiens.

Microscopic view of some dendritic forms (a) and microscopic image of the limonite stains (b) (by David Frayer, University of Kansas)
The rock was collected more than 100 years ago from the Krapina Neanderthal site, which has items preserved in the Croatian Natural History Museum in Zagreb, where in recent years the research team has re-examined them.

(after PhysOrg, David Frayer, University of Kansas & International Business Times)

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