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Neanderthals may have passed on tool-making skills to modern humans

Not so stupid after all? Neanderthals may have passed on tool-making skills to modern humans


Dutch scientists have discovered 50,000-year-old tools made from deer ribs in south-west France, which are believed to signify the transmission of knowledge and skill from Neanderthals to modern humans. The discovery adds to growing evidence that the Neanderthals, once viewed as dim-witted and primitive, had a high level of technological ability.

The tools are similar to bone lissoirs or smoothers, still used by leather workers today, and contain a polished tip which creates softer and more water resistant leather when scraped against a hide.

The discovery, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has reported that the excavated tools are also similar to others found at sites occupied by early modern humans at a later stage, who replaced Neanderthals in Europe around 40,000 years ago

'If Neanderthals developed this type of bone tool on their own, it is possible that modern humans then acquired this technology from Neanderthals,' said Dr Marie Soressi, one of the researchers from Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Modern humans (Homo sapiens) appear to have entered Europe with only pointed bone tools but soon after their arrival started to make lissoirs, providing the first possible evidence that Neanderthals invented the specialised bone tools and passed their know-how on to our direct ancestors.  Another possibility is that early modern humans started influencing Neanderthal behaviour earlier than has been thought.

At this stage it is too early to make definitive conclusions, however, a string of studies have pointed to the fact that Neanderthals were not the subhuman brutes as once believed. Research fuelled by a fascination into the plight of the Neanderthals who mysteriously died out some 30,000 years ago, has uncovered a number of findings about the Neanderthals which suggests they were not as primitive as once believed. 

Evidence revealing a certain level of sophistication and cultural practices amongst Neanderthals has included findings demonstrating that they created art, used medicinal plants, created a comfortable ‘base’ that they would have considered home, and may have had a sophisticated form of modern language and speech.

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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