Ancient artifacts suggest that early humans coveted some items not always directly linked to personal survival.
Like people today, our ancestors may have just enjoyed objects that were beautiful, eye-catching, status-lifting, fun or all of the above.
The geode, described in the latest issue of Comptes Rendus Palevol, was found in the Cioarei-Boroşteni Cave, Romania. A Neanderthal had painted it with ochre.
"The Neanderthal man must have certainly attached an aesthetic importance to it, while its having been painted with ochre was an addition meant to confer symbolic value," said Marin Cârciumaru of Valahia University and colleagues.
The researchers also noted that "the geode was undoubtedly introduced into the cave by the Neanderthal," since they ruled out that it could have originated in the cave itself.
Was the geode used in rituals, or was it just a treasured object of beauty? Its precise meaning to the Neanderthal remains a mystery for now.
Photos: Are You Related to Neanderthals?