Did Neanderthals Play Tic-Tac-Toe?

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Did Neanderthals Play Tic-Tac-Toe?


When we think of Neanderthals, we often picture long-haired, shaggy-looking prehistoric people with the intelligence of a buffalo.

But new artwork found in a Gibraltar cave suggests otherwise, and it looks very much like a game we're all familiar with. New Scientist reports no one can say for sure if the artwork was just "Idle doodle ... Stone Age tic-tac-toe, or the first evidence of Neanderthal art."

Regardless of what it is, it's making the Internet chatter because it would mean Neanderthals, our ancient ancestors, possibly weren't as primitive as we all thought.

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Did Neanderthals Play Tic-Tac-Toe?
ITALY - JUNE 15: Neanderthal fossil skull (Homo neanderthalensis), profile, found in Mount Circeo, Lazio, Italy. Rome, Museo Di Paleontologia (Paleonthology Museum) (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
Reproduction of a Neanderthal woman of Sidon Cave in Asturias, rooms of prehistory at the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Cristina Arias/Cover/Getty Images)
View taken on July 8, 2010 of a mannequin of a Tautavel Man presented at the prehistoric museum in Tautavel. The European Centre for Prehistoric Research was established in 1992 by French prehistorian Henry de Lumley and is located on the premises of the new museum of Tautavel, the European Prehistoric Centre. Henry de Lumley and his team are at the origin of the discovery of the Tautavel Man, an ancestor of Neanderthal Man, in the Caune de l'Arago cave. AFP PHOTO / ERIC CABANIS (Photo credit should read ERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images)
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"Scientists say it could be the most compelling evidence yet for Neanderthal art,"BBC reports.

BBC explains that's because art is abstract thought, which "was long considered to be the exclusive preserve of our own species. ... [and] the geometric pattern identified in Gibraltar ... was uncovered beneath undisturbed sediments that have also yielded Neanderthal tools."

So, artwork AND tools? Score one for the Neanderthals, zero for all those scientists who ever doubted them.

And like all fine art, even if it is the upwards of 39,000 years old, it already has its critics.

"It just looks like a bunch of lines, I don't know if I'd call it artwork."
​"Well, they're Neanderthals for gosh sakes!"

Nobody can catch a break these days. Scientific American says scientists have been excavating the cave since the late 1980s. The discovery was published in the journal PNAS.

And if this is evidence that Neanderthals were smarter than we all thought, it wouldn't be the first. Other studies have sought to prove they were actually just as smart as modern humans, but that would be a whole other story.
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