51,000-Year-Old Toe Bone Carving Found By Researchers

(Photo by Pierre Andrieu/Getty Images)

Emma Henderson Contributor
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A study released Monday detailed the findings of a toe bone that belonged to a prehistoric deer and had been carved by Neanderthals 51,000 years ago.

The artifact dates back at least 51,000 years and was found in northern Germany near the former cave entrance of Einhornhöle, a popular tourist attraction often called “The Unicorn Cave.”  The study, published June 5 by Nature Ecology & Evolution, attributed the find to an apparent link to Neanderthals. (RELATED: Scientists Find The Oldest Fossil of Human Ever Discovered In Western Europe)

Not only is the find one of the oldest artworks ever found, according to NBC News, it also provides significant context to understanding the way Neanderthals showed expressions, according to the original report.

“The engraved bone demonstrates that conceptual imagination, as a prerequisite to compose individual lines into a coherent design, was present in Neanderthals,” researchers wrote in the report.

The discovery of the carving points to the idea that Neanderthals were aware of symbolic meaning and were capable of creating symbolic expressions, Nature Ecology & Evolution reported.

Professor and Prehistoric Archaeologist Thomas Terberger, who co-authored the study of the object, said, “It’s clearly a decoration with a kind of symbolic character. … You might even call it the initial start of art, something which was not done by accident, but with a clear plan in mind,” NBC News reported.