While my focus and attention have moved on and the process of research continues...smatterings of Neanderthal information which had slid under my radar continue occasionally show themselves. I've added two more pictures to the Neanderthal post, one in The Birth of Technology
, and another in The Evolution of Art
This first picture is a hand axe found in Hoxne, Suffolk, England. It was made around 400 kya by either Homo Erectus or Homo Heidelbergensis. Either way, it is a wonderful example of many of the topics I raised in the piece. The hand axe is remarkably colorful and intriguing to the eye. The most recognizable feature is its brutally straight lines. Since this excessive amount of straightness was not practically necessary, this piece is good evidence that around 400 kya hominins were adding obvious symmetry and well-defined straightness to their hand axes. This was certainly not practical, and served some other purpose. Pieces like this allow the onlooker to vividly enter the mind of our ancestors - they were aiming to create straight lines, an object not found in nature but invented within our mind. Hundreds of thousands of years later, hominins can still look at this piece and immediately detect the latent geometry held within.
This second picture is much more controversial. It is called the Mask of la Roche-Cotard. It was found with Mousterian tools and was at that time dated to 35 kya (which now should be around 40 kya). This small flint object was carried around by these Neanderthals. Originally it was only another piece of rock, but at some point someone forced a piece of bone through a hole in the center. On the side of the "face" are marks indicative of intentional force. In addition to that manipulation, the top and the sides of this object were scraped and leveled, also done with hominin intent.
This object was a manuport and was carried around for some reason, specifying which reason is where the controversy lies. Many people  claim that it is because it looks like, well, a face! Although this argument may be correct, it is entirely anthropomorphic and suspiciously unverifiable. Besides that argument, there is no other hypothesis I am aware of which would explain why a Neanderthal would carry this object around. As of 2014, this object is entirely cloaked in mystery, explained only through questionable hypotheses and without consensus.
Enjoy! More updates, history posts, and old pictures to come.