From PLOS ONE:
The hypothesis that Neanderthals exploited birds for the use of their feathers or claws as personal ornaments in symbolic behaviour is revolutionary as it assigns unprecedented cognitive abilities to these hominins. This inference, however, is based on modest faunal samples and thus may not represent a regular or systematic behaviour.
Here we address this issue by looking for evidence of such behaviour across a large temporal and geographical framework. Our analyses try to answer four main questions: 1) does a Neanderthal to raptor-corvid connection exist at a large scale, thus avoiding associations that might be regarded as local in space or time?; 2) did Middle (associated with Neanderthals) and Upper Palaeolithic (associated with modern humans) sites contain a greater range of these species than Late Pleistocene paleontological sites?; 3) is there a taphonomic association between Neanderthals and corvids-raptors at Middle Palaeolithic sites on Gibraltar, specifically Gorham’s, Vanguard and Ibex Caves? and; 4) was the extraction of wing feathers a local phenomenon exclusive to the Neanderthals at these sites or was it a geographically wider phenomenon?.
We compiled a database of 1699 Pleistocene Palearctic sites based on fossil bird sites. We also compiled a taphonomical database from the Middle Palaeolithic assemblages of Gibraltar. We establish a clear, previously unknown and widespread, association between Neanderthals, raptors and corvids. We show that the association involved the direct intervention of Neanderthals on the bones of these birds, which we interpret as evidence of extraction of large flight feathers.
The large number of bones, the variety of species processed and the different temporal periods when the behaviour is observed, indicate that this was a systematic, geographically and temporally broad, activity that the Neanderthals undertook. Our results, providing clear evidence that Neanderthal cognitive capacities were comparable to those of Modern Humans, constitute a major advance in the study of human evolution.
See also here.
“Anatomically modern humans” (AMH), or the first subspecies which bore the closest resemblance to modern humans, lived in Africa approximately 200,000 years ago (the exact time frame is a point of contention for most archaelogists, but we’ll stick with this one). AMH inhabited a relatively small region of Africa until somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago, when our ancestors suddenly became restless and began to venture out into surrounding areas, eventually reaching Europe and Asia 40,000 years ago. The rest, as they say, is history: here.
The melting pot of early human history has just been given a good stir. The largest study of genetic variance across present-day populations in southern Africa suggests that there is no single place in Africa from which all modern humans emerged. Instead, our species is the result of mixing between numerous early human populations across a vast area: here.
Are Neanderthals Human? Here.