Technology Neanderthals could swim. They even dived.

Neanderthals could swim. They even dived.

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Neanderthals collected seashells at the seashore. They may also have swum underwater to recover live clams and then form sharp tools and scrapers, according to a new study.

"Our findings extend our knowledge of the range of capabilities Neanderthals had," said Sylvain Soriano, an archaeologist at the University of Paris Nanterre and author of the article. "Now we can say that they were able to dive in shallow water."

The conclusion is based on more than 170 handmade shell tools found in an Italian cave. The finding provides information on how Neanderthals, who hunted deer with flint-pointed spears and used fire to produce birch tar, took advantage of their aquatic resources to meet their needs and fill their utility belts. The document was published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One.

The researchers discovered Grotta dei Moscerini on the western coast of Italy at the base of a limestone cliff in the late 1930s. During an excavation in 1949, archaeologists who used mesh sieves dug up dozens of seashells. The Neanderthal inhabitants of the cave had sharpened or modified many of the shells into thin cutting tools, similar to how they had turned the flint into stone blades. Some of the shell tools date from about 100,000 years ago.

"Stop using the word" Neanderthal "to refer to a cretin or idiot," said Dr. Villa. "It's not true anymore."

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