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They probably weren’t trying to impress us with their delicate good looks – but Neanderthals wore makeup, according to new research.
Archaeologists from the University of Bristol have found seashells in southern Spain containing brightly-coloured pigments which they believe were used for personal decoration.
They believe that a 50,000-year-old yellow pigment – natarojarosite – was used by the Neanderthals as a type of foundation. It was also used as a cosmetic in ancient Egypt, many thousands of years later.
The team also discovered a red powder that had been mixed with the reflective black minerals hematite and pyrite, possibly for use as eye makeup.
The archeologists have speculated that the shells themselves were worn for decoration.
The discovery indicates that Neanderthals showed organised behaviour and symbolic thinking, say the researchers. The finds date from a period 10,000 years before modern humans are first recorded in Europe.
The report appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.