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Gibraltar once again reaches the international stage as a new documentary entitled “Secrets of the Neanderthals” is scheduled to air on Netflix next month. The documentary has been produced by the BBC. The work carried out by Gibraltar National Museum scientists is featured, including the important revelations regarding Neanderthal behaviour which are coming from Gibraltar, a location where Neanderthals survived to the very end of their existence. Among recent discoveries have been the revelation of the first example of a rock engraving made by the Neanderthals and which has become popularly known worldwide as "the hashtag". Other ground-breaking research has shown the, hitherto unknown, abilities of the Neanderthals, something which the documentary draws heavily upon.


One of these cutting research insights has been the clear demonstration, from Gorham’s and Vanguard Caves, that Neanderthals exploited birds, not just for food but for the use of their feathers and talons for adornment. This subject formed part of Dr Stewart Finlayson's PhD thesis and which included a number of papers in peer reviewed journals as well as others in the pipeline. One of these, entitled "Neanderthals and the Cult of the Sun Bird" revealed how Neanderthals were amazingly able to catch the powerful golden eagle, the symbol of power and connection with the sky in many cultures since. It received widespread coverage internationally.

The most recent discoveries at the Neanderthals’ Grotto came too late to be featured but other major documentaries are in the pipeline and will undoubtedly draw on these. As the summer approaches, preparations are in hand for the 2024 excavations, which will return to this newly discovered enigmatic location. Work on the finds from 2023 continues and some items are expected to be put on display at the Gibraltar National Museum shortly.

A trailer for the forthcoming documentary is at:

Commenting on the work and the new documentary, Dr Stewart Finlayson said: "This is all very exciting. We are now fully immersed in the research from the 2023 finds and we are awaiting the new dates from the Neanderthals’ Grotto. I can hardly wait to receive these and find out when the Neanderthals were working on the eagle owl and the red deer antler, among other items. At the same time the planning for 2024 continues and it is a fantastic boost to see our efforts recognized, not just in scientific publications but also in documentaries such as this one. It is only a few weeks ago that our work was featured by RTVE2 and that our book on the last Neanderthals was published by Salvat."

Published: April 05, 2024

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