x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Vanity of cavemen

Scholars say Neanderthal man had a taste for beauty. We're closer to our ancestors than we knew.

You've seen the old cartoons: the male caveman whacks his female counterpart on the head with a club and drags her by the hair into the cave. But increasingly scientists believe that early man, especially our evolutionary cousin the Neanderthal, wasn't the oafish knuckle-dragger so widely portrayed.

Indeed, so similar to our own cognitive way of thinking was the Neanderthal that, according to a new study, he harvested feathers from birds to use as personal ornaments. Apparently, he liked to look pretty, too.

According to research by experts from Gibraltar Museum, published in PLoS ONE journal, Neanderthals displayed a preference for dark feathers, from birds of prey such as ravens and rooks. Black has always been in fashion, it seems.

This new discovery is only the latest evidence that our early relations were more sophisticated than oft given credit for. Neanderthals used tools and artefacts; painted images on cave dwellings; and ate vegetables, not just meat. There is even suggestions that they buried their dead with flowers, civilised actions incongruous with our prior perceptions.

Of course, taking time out to adorn themselves with jewellery might have been the Neanderthals' downfall, pushing them towards extinction as they were preoccupied with looking good. Narcissism, as even a caveman knows, can be very unhealthy.