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[EN VIDÉO] Interview 4/5: Why did the Neanderthals disappear? Neanderthals are now a well-known representative of the Homo genus. Paleoanthropologist Silvana…
The Neanderthal is definitely taking revenge, he who has been so often portrayed as a stupid animal not smart enough to survive the great march of evolution. The common hypothesis is that Neanderthals were actually less innovative than their cousin Homo sapiens. An idea that could be completely wrong. A growing number of studies show that Neanderthals were capable of complex technical processes that required cognitive development similar to modern humans.
Two recent papers published in Scientific Reports show that our distant relatives are the inventors of one of the oldest materials conversion techniques. Neanderthals actually…invented glue! Certainly in a very different form than the one we know today, but still.
Neanderthals as the origin of the first new material
Neanderthals would have developed a fairly complex technique to extract tar from birch bark. This substance was then used to make composite tools that required small pieces of stone to be put together. Later, tar was used to waterproof devices such as tanks or boats.
However, birch bark tar is created through a complex process, and it is surprising that this technique developed so early in the Paleolithic. This is also the first production of a new material. This tar can be obtained in a variety of ways, and scientists believe that Neanderthals discovered several of them over time. Although it is impossible to know for sure which was the very first method, researchers are leaning towards the condensation technique. This requires a few different materials and a relatively simple preparation step. However, the result is interesting because it produces a very resistant tar. The process is as follows: Birch bark is burned on stones. It is then the smoke that creates the famous tar through condensation on the stone surfaces. A process that may seem simple, but one still had to think about it and put it into action. It is also likely that this technique, whose yield is rather low, was quickly improved. But to what extent was Neanderthal tar production important for important cognitive development?
A model for assessing the complexity of a technology
To answer this question, the researchers used a method called a “Petri net” to measure the complexity of a technique and assess the level of cognitive development associated with it. The results show that in order to make their tar, Neanderthals had to collect a lot of information, understand certain abstract processes and be capable of causal reasoning, but also had to be able to pass on this knowledge. A set of knowledge and intellectual abilities requiring numerous cognitive abilities previously attributed only to modern humans. It is also likely that this type of technique required greater organization within the group and, above all, deeper communication between individuals.
Further proof that Neanderthals were intelligent and creative and certainly had nothing to envy their Homo Sapins cousins!
Sometimes we think of Neanderthals as somewhat stupid. Intellectually limited. But evidence to the contrary seems to be accumulating. Researchers have now confirmed that Neanderthals actually used glue and mastered fire.
Article by Nathalie MayerNathalie Mayer published on June 29, 2019
Uncorking a tube of glue to put two objects together is a common act today. But tens of thousands of years ago, things weren’t so simple. However, researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder (USA) claim that Neanderthals used a type of glue to assemble stone tools and wooden handles or bones as early as 55,000 to 40,000 years ago.
“We continue to show that Neanderthals were not inferior primitives,” notes Paola Villa, curator at the Boulder Natural History Museum. Your proof: more than 1,000 tools from two Italian locations. On some of them, researchers found traces of glue made from pine resin.
Neanderthals mastered fire
It was gas chromatography combined with mass spectrometry that allowed them to reach this conclusion. And thus confirm that Neanderthals used this technique quite regularly to make artistic tools.
This work also appears to confirm that Neanderthals were capable of lighting a fire when necessary. An idea that is not entirely unanimous. However, pine sap dries when exposed to air. That’s why Neanderthals had to heat it a little with fire to make an effective glue.
Neanderthals invented glue 200,000 years ago. But to extract it from birch bark, contrary to what scientists believe, he did not have to show any treasures of ingenuity.
Article by Nathalie Mayer published on September 10, 2017
To attach a flint tip to his wooden spear, Neanderthals used…glue! It was based on birch bark extracts. Scientific analyzes showed this a few years ago. However, there are still doubts about the then a priori complex method of producing this glue.
Given the lack of properly preserved samples, researchers at Leiden University (Netherlands) chose the path of experimental archeology to resolve the mystery. They identified several tools that could have been used by Neanderthals.
Birch bark and fire
The first technique seems extremely simple. However, until then we thought it was complex. In fact, previous experiments had only resulted in the hot extraction of small amounts of resin, suggesting that very precise control of temperature was essential.
On the contrary, the experiments of archaeologists from Leiden University show that it is possible to produce glue, even at quite different temperatures. Birch bark and a fire are all Neanderthals needed to invent glue. He then had enough time to develop more sophisticated methods to improve yields back then.