We once assumed that Neanderthals were just dumb cavemen because they looked so different from modern humans. But as scientists uncover more and more information about them, we learn that while they were primitive, they were no dummies. They were using tar to glue objects together 200,000 years ago, which enabled them to design and manufacture tools. That was way before the invention of ceramics, much less the forging of metal pots. So how did they manage to cook the necessary ingredients to make tar? A group of researchers from Leiden University tried to recreate the possible scenario for the Neanderthal's discovery of tar, using the materials (birch bark, pine) and methods (fire) thought to be available to them at the time. By repeating the process and varying the conditions, they were able to reproduce the kind of tar Neanderthals used.
“What this paper reinforces is that all of the humans that were around 50,000 to 150,000 years ago roughly, were culturally similar and equally capable of these levels of imagination, invention and technology,” explained Washington University anthropologist Erik Trinkaus, who wasn’t involved in the study, in an interview with Gizmodo. “Anthropologists have been confusing anatomy and behavior, making the inference that archaic anatomy equals archaic behavior, and ‘modern’ behavior [is equivalent to] modern human anatomy. What is emerging from the human fossil and Paleolithic archeological records across the Eurasia and Africa is that, at any one slice in time during this period, they were all doing—and capable of doing—basically the same things, whatever they looked like.”
By the way, even the way Neanderthals looked has undergone a lot of revision since we first discovered their skeletons. Read more about the Neanderthal glue experiments at Gizmodo.
(Image credit: Biglari/ICHTO)