Toolmaking Teachers? Surprising Skills Shared Between Neanderthals and Modern Humans
50,000-year-old tools made from deer ribs suggest modern humans may have learned tool-making from Neanderthals. Found in the southwest of France, these artifacts add to a growing body of evidence showing the common view of Neanderthals as dim-witted or primitive is far from the truth.
Similar to bone lissoirs or smoothers still used by leather workers today, the tools have a polished tip and create a softer more water-resistant leather when they are scraped against a hide. Moreover, these tools appear to be very much like others found at sites inhabited later by modern humans.
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An article on the discovery was published in 2013 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Speaking on the find, Dr. Marie Soressi, one of the lead researchers from Leiden University in the Netherlands said: “If Neanderthals developed this type of bone tool on their own, it is possible that modern humans then acquired this technology from Neanderthals.”
Photographs and drawings of the Abri Peyrony (AP) and Pech-de-l’Azé I (PA I) bone tools. (Soressi, M. et al)
The archaeological record suggests that Homo sapiens arrived in Europe with only pointed bone tools in their toolkits. But it didn’t take long until they began crafting these better functioning lissoirs – which may mean Neanderthals taught them how to make the specialized bone tool. The other possibility is that the 50,000-year-old tools show modern humans influenced Neanderthal behavior at an earlier date than previously believed. It may be too early and with insufficient evidence to decide.
Nonetheless, there are many studies supporting the perspective that Neanderthals were not unintelligent brutes. There is already a slew of evidence suggesting the hominid group which mysteriously disappeared about 30,000 years ago were not as primitive as some would like to think.
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Neanderthals were not as primitive as some would like to think. ( Erich Ferdinand/CC BY 2.0)
There are studies which demonstrate Neanderthals created art, used medicinal plants, liked to have a comfortable home ‘base’, and may have even used some form of modern language and speech – all suggesting a certain level of sophistication not commonly associated with the stereotypical grunting Neanderthal. Perhaps it’s time our standard view was revised somewhat.
Reconstruction of Neanderthals burying an individual in a cave. National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC, USA. (Ricardo Giaviti/ CC BY NC SA 2.0)
Top Image: Representation of a group of Neanderthals. Source: Public Domain