Neanderthals used feathers for fashion?

London: Neanderthals may have had used feathers as ornaments 44,000 years ago, claim archaeologists, adding fuel to the debate over whether our distant cousins were simple brutes or a bit cultured.

A team, led by Marco Peresani of University of Ferrara in Italy, has based its findings after they found nearly 660 bird bones mixed in with Neanderthal bones in Fumane cave in northern Italy.

Many of the wing bones were cut and scraped where the flight feathers were once attached, suggesting the feathers had been systematically removed.

Just like the shells which Neanderthals may have had worn as jewellery, the archaeologists claim that the feathers were probably used as ornaments for fashion, `New Scientist` reported.

They dismiss other explanations on the grounds that many of the species are poor food sources and fletched arrows had not been invented at the time.

João Zilhão at the University of Barcelona in Spain said it`s more evidence that Neanderthals were as cultured as Homo sapiens. On the other hand Thomas Higham at University of Oxford says Peresani has pushed his data too far.