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Neanderthals Used Compound Glues, Indicating Surprisingly Sophisticated Intelligence, Scientists Say 

Amulti-component adhesive made by Neanderthals used to hold together stone tools suggests the ancient cousins of humans were much smarter than we originally believed. has learned that the research found traces of ochre and bitumen used to make different adhesives on some of the tools that included scrapers, flakes and blades. 

New evidence of compound adhesives (left) suggests Neanderthals were smarter than originally believed. By: MEGA© Knewz (UK)

The research was published in Science Advances on Wednesday, February 21.

Ochre is a clay earth pigment that occurs naturally while bitumen is a component of asphalt.

What is particularly intriguing is that the Neanderthals seem to have been aware of major differences in adhesiveness when using dry bitumen, which loses its adhesiveness when mixed with ochre, versus wet bitumen, which does not. 

The substance was adhesive enough to build a stone tool, but it was not so gooey as to get stuck to the hand.

The ability to use several different adhesives to built a tool is considered a unique cognitive ability that separated Homo sapiens from other animals. However, the news evidence now lumps Homo neanderthalensis into that group of intelligent early humans.

“Compound adhesives are considered to be among the first expressions of the modern cognitive processes that are still active today,” said lead author Patrick Schmidt from the University of Tübingen in Germany. 

A replica of a Neanderthal jaw. By: MEGA© Knewz (UK)

Radu Iovita, an associate professor at New York University and fellow study author, said, “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.” 

The discovery was an analysis of tools that were discovered decades ago but had been kept in the archives at the Berlin’s Museum of Prehistory and Early History. The were rediscovered during an internal review of the museum’s storage.

“The items had been individually wrapped and untouched since the 1960s,” says study author Ewa Dutkiewicz from the Museum of Prehistory and Early History. “As a result, the adhering remains of organic substances were very well preserved.”

The tools had originally been found in France, at an archaeological site called Le Moustier, first discovered in the early 20th century. 

Neanderthals made unique and complicated tools. By: MEGA© Knewz (UK)

They were used by Neanderthals somewhere between 120,000 and 40,000 years ago during the middle Paleolithic period.

The fact that the tools were found at Le Moustier suggest that considerable effort went into making the compound because both the ochre and bitumen would have had to have been collected from distant locations. 

This implies purposeful manufacturing and the ability (and desire) to seek out specific ingredients to make tools.

“Taking into account the overall context of the finds, we assume that this adhesive material was made by Neanderthals,” said Dutkiewicz. previously reported that some archaeologists believe Neanderthals were incredibly creative creatures, but failed to compete with the efficiency of Homo sapiens

Story by Kevin McSpadden:Knewz 

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