130,000-Year-Old Neanderthal “Eagle Claw Necklace” Found in Croatia

Eight, mostly complete talons of the white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) from the Krapina Neanderthal site in present-day Croatia may be part of a jewelry assemblage, says a team of scientists led by Dr David Frayer of the University of Kansas.


Between 1899 and 1905, a researcher named Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger recovered a total of 8 ancient eagle claws from an archaeological site not far from the town of Krapina in northern Croatia.

Having had the chance to examine these millennia-old talons, specialist David Frayer at the University of Kansas in the US and fellow scientists claim that, a long time ago, somebody wore them as jewelry.

More precisely, the researchers argue that the eagle claws were used by Neanderthals who lived in the region in ancient times to make either necklaces or bracelets. Yes, it turns out Neanderthals were quite fashionable.

The claws were polished before being turned into jewelry


Anthropologist Davorka Radovcic, a curator at the Croatian Natural History Museum in Zagreb, shows on March 18, 2015, a white-tailed eagle talon, one of eight found at the famous Krapina Neanderthal site that were part of a the world’s earliest jewellery. (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)

In a report published in yesterday’s issue of the journal PLOS ONE, University of Kansas specialist David Frayer and colleagues explain that the 8 bird claws found in present-day northern Croatia date back to about 130,000 years ago, maybe even more.

The talons appear to come from ancient white-tailed eagles. This species, still alive today, is now Europe’s absolute largest aerial predator. Thus, wildlife researchers say that the average white-tailed eagle has a wingspan of about 2 meters (about 6.5 feet).

The 8 eagle claws discovered by scientist Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger over a century ago, a photo of which is available below, all show signs of having been polished before being pierced and added to necklaces or bracelets warn by Neanderthals.

The claws are believed to come from at least three different birds. All things considered, it’s safe to assume that Neanderthals made them into pieces of jewelry and worn them as such not because they wanted to look good when out hunting, but for symbolic purposes.

“It’s really a stunning discovery. It’s one of those things that just appeared out of the blue. It’s so unexpected and it’s so startling because there’s just nothing like it until very recent times to find this kind of jewelry,” David Frayer commented on this find, as cited by Science Daily.

The importance of this surprising archaeological discovery

The University of Kansas specialist and fellow researchers explain that, if they are right when making these claims and Neanderthals did in fact wear eagle claws as jewelry 130,000 years ago, this means they must have been more advanced than previously assumed.

Apparently, there are many who believe that Neanderthals lacked any kind of symbolic ability and only became interested in such behaviors after their first interactions with modern humans. The discovery of the 8 polished eagle claws in Croatia indicates otherwise.


Rate this post