Neanderthals resin glue—The first fossilized human species discovered, Homo neanderthalensis has long been considered a beastly creature. Recent discoveries however draw a very different picture. 200,000 years ago, the Neanderthal Man had already been using glue to craft tools. But, contrary to what the scientists thought, to extract it from the birch bark, it did not need to deploy great amounts of ingenuity.
To fix a flint point on his wooden spear, the Neanderthal Man used… glue! It was based on extracts of birch bark. This is what scientific analyzes had already demonstrated a few years ago. But there was still some doubt about the method – a priori complex – used at that time to make this glue.
Archaeologists working in two Italian caves have discovered some of the earliest known examples of ancient humans using an adhesive on their stone tools-an important technological advance called “hafting.”
The new study shows that Neanderthals living in Europe from about 55 to 40 thousand years ago traveled away from their caves to collect resin from pine trees. They then used that sticky substance to glue stone tools to handles made out of wood or bone.
“We continue to find evidence that the Neanderthals were not inferior primitives but were quite capable of doing things that have traditionally only been attributed to modern humans,” said Paola Villa, from University of Colorado at Boulder.
It’s not the first time that this theory had been proposed. Back in 2017, Faced with the lack of properly preserved samples, researchers at the University of Leiden (Netherlands) have chosen the path of experimental archeology to unravel the mystery. They identified several ways that the glue could have been implemented by the Neanderthals.
The first technique appears extremely simple. Yet until then, it was thought complex. Indeed, the previous experiments had led to the hot extraction of only low amounts of resin, suggesting that a very precise control of the temperature was essential.
On the contrary, the experiments of the archaeologists at the University of Leiden show that it is possible to produce glue, even at fairly variable temperatures. Birch bark and fire were all the Neanderthal Man needed to invent the glue. He then had plenty of time to develop more elaborate methods to improve yields even then.
“We continue to find evidence that the Neanderthals were not inferior primitives but were quite capable of doing things that have traditionally only been attributed to modern humans,” said Villa.
The neanderthal glue is still a matter of debate within the scientific community, especially concerning the issue of fire control, which is still not accepted for our former cousin.
For nearly 300,000 years, in Europe and the Middle East, Neanderthals have evolved in different biotopes and in different climates. Nomadic hunter-gatherers, over time, thanks to their anatomy, their metabolism, but also, and above all, their behavioral abilities, they were able to adapt perfectly to sometimes hostile environments and to climate changes, even of high intensity.