Even the Neanderthals used glue

Stone tools were attached to handles with "glue" made of resin and beeswax

In order to attach their stone tools to handles, the Neanderthals used glue made from resin, which they heated over the fire. © Randii Oliver / Public domain
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Sticky Find: Neanderthals already knew some kind of glue. As finds of some 50, 000-year-old stone tools from Italy show, our Stone Age cousins ​​used adhesives made from pine resin and beeswax. With these substances they attached processed flints to handles made of wood and bone. This shows once again how advanced the Neanderthal tool art was.

The Neanderthal man has long since ceased to be the "dumb cousin" of Homo sapiens. For archaeological finds have shown over the past few years time and again that these Stone Age people had amazing skills - for example in tool making. For example, Homo neanderthalensis not only produced simple flint hand-axes, but even specialized bone tools and wooden spears.

Strange residues

Their stone tools also sometimes equipped the Neanderthals with handles made of wood or bone. To connect these parts with the actual tool, they used a sophisticated technique: Apparently, our Stone Age cousins ​​already used some kind of glue. Evidence suggests that researchers around Ilaria Degano from the University of Pisa have now discovered in two caves on the Italian west coast.

In the Grotta del Fossellone and the Grotta di Sant'Agostina, they found more than 1, 000 stone tools from around 50, 000 years ago. Amongst these finds were processed pieces of flint, which contained the remains of an initially unknown, probably organic material in itself. What was the problem with these residues?

At these flints the archaeologists discovered residues of resin. Degano et al. 2019, PLOS One

Resin and beeswax

To find out, scientists analyzed ten of the Neanderthal artefacts using gas chromatography mass spectrometry. The results revealed: Resin of pine trees stuck to the flint stones. In one case, the substance had been mixed with beeswax. However, as the archaeologists discovered, there was no evidence of haphazardly dripped tree resin in the immediate vicinity of the site. The distribution of resin residues on the stone pieces in her opinion speaks for a deliberate application. display

According to this, the Neanderthals purposefully collected this natural glue in order to be able to provide their tools with handles. As the team around Degano emphasizes, the find is not the first evidence for the use of this technique in Neanderthals. He shows, however, that the method was more widespread than thought and was an integral part of the technological repertoire of our Stone Age cousins.

Warmed by fire

In addition, the adhesive practice provides another indication that the homo neanderthalensis was a master of fire-making. Because pine resin dries out quickly in the air. To use the resin as an adhesive, the Neanderthals had to warm it over the fire. "This is one of many proofs that Neanderthals could make fires whenever they needed them, " says co-author Paola Villa of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

"We always find evidence that these Stone Age people were not primitives inferior to Homo sapiens. They, too, could do things traditionally attributed to modern man, "concludes the archaeologist. (PLOS One, 2019; doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0213473)

Source: University of Colorado Boulder

- Daniel Albat