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“Neanderthals Used Complex Adhesive to Create Stone Tools, Study Finds”

Neanderthals, our ancient human relatives, were known for their impressive tool-making abilities. However, a recent study published in the journal Science Advances has shed new light on their cognitive abilities and cultural development. The study reveals that Neanderthals used a complex adhesive to create stone tools, providing evidence of their advanced thinking and craftsmanship.

The research, led by Patrick Schmidt from the University of Tübingen and Ewa Dutkiewicz from the Museum of Prehistory and Early History at the National Museums in Berlin, focused on objects found at Le Moustier, an archaeological site in Peyzac-le-Moustier, France. These objects, dating back between 120,000 and 40,000 years ago during the Middle Palaeolithic period, have remained untouched since their discovery in the 1960s.

What makes these tools unique is the discovery of a multi-component adhesive used to hold them together. The researchers found traces of a mixture of ochre and bitumen on several stone tools. Ochre, a naturally occurring earth pigment, made up more than 50 percent of the adhesive. This high proportion of ochre was surprising because bitumen alone can be used as an adhesive without any alterations. However, the addition of ochre provided the necessary stickiness to hold the stone tools in place.

To determine the strength of this adhesive, the researchers conducted tensile tests. They found that liquid bitumen alone was not suitable for gluing. However, when combined with 55% ochre, it formed a malleable mass that was ideal for creating handles for stone tools. Microscopic examination of the use-wear traces on these tools confirmed that the adhesives were indeed used in this way.

Radu Iovita, an associate professor at New York University’s Centre for the Study of Human Origins, explains the significance of these findings. He states, “These astonishingly well-preserved tools showcase a technical solution broadly similar to examples of tools made by early modern humans in Africa, but the exact recipe reflects a Neanderthal ‘spin,’ which is the production of grips for handheld tools.” This suggests that Neanderthals possessed a higher level of cognition and cultural development than previously believed.

The use of complex adhesives by Neanderthals challenges the long-held assumption that they were less advanced than their Homo sapiens counterparts. It demonstrates their ability to innovate and adapt their tools to suit their needs. The presence of these advanced techniques at Le Moustier provides valuable insights into the cognitive abilities and cultural practices of Neanderthals.

The study also highlights the importance of preserving archaeological sites like Le Moustier. These sites hold invaluable clues about our ancient ancestors and their way of life. By carefully examining and analyzing the objects left behind, researchers can uncover fascinating details about human history.

As we continue to unravel the mysteries of our past, studies like this one remind us that Neanderthals were not primitive beings but rather skilled craftsmen who used complex techniques to create tools. They challenge our preconceived notions and offer a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of our ancient relatives.


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