Scientists have unearthed new evidence that hints at the cognitive capabilities that would have allowed them to create visually consistent, and perhaps symbolic, patterns.

The evidence is a raven bone fragment found at the Zaskalnaya VI (ZSK) site in Crimea that scientists say features two notches most likely made by Neanderthals intentionally. These notches were made by neanderthals to display a visually consistent pattern says the study published in PLOS ONE by Ana Majkic at the Universite de Bordeaux and colleagues.

For the study researchers conducted a mixed-methods study to assess whether the two extra notches on the ZSK raven bone were made by Neanderthals with the intention of making the final series of notches appear to be evenly spaced.

Scientists conducted a multi-phase experiment where recruited volunteers were asked to create evenly spaced notches in domestic turkey bones, which are similar in size to the ZSK raven bone. Subsequent to that they carried out morphometric analyses to determine that the experimental notches created by volunteers were comparable to the spacing of notches in the ZSK raven bone, even when adjusted for errors in human perception.

Scientists also examined archeological specimens featuring aligned notches from different sites and compared with the ZSK raven bone specimen to conclude that neanderthals indeed created these notches and that’s an evidence that hints at their cognitive abilities.

A series of recent discoveries of altered bird bones across Neanderthal sites has caused many researchers to argue that the objects were used for personal ornaments, as opposed to butchery tools or activities. But this study is the first that provides direct evidence to support a symbolic argument for intentional modifications on a bird bone.