Technology Neanderthals touched the bottom of the sea

Neanderthals touched the bottom of the sea

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Jorge Judith

Madrid

Updated:01/19/2020 12: 53h

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There is no research about Neanderthals May our hearts not touch us a little. Because knowing that we were not the only ones to do so many things, that our species is not so special, after all, leads us to reflect on what it means to be human. These close and intelligent relatives, with whom we lived in Europe and Asia until they disappeared about 40,000 years ago, buried their dead, created art, took care of their children and hunted strategically in groups. They also manufactured and used tools like us. And they got wet to get them. Literally. In some places it may even be before we tried.

The retouched shell tools – Villa et al., 2020

A study recently published in the open access journal PLOS ONE concludes that, during the Middle Paelolithic, the Neanderthals dived in the coastal needles of what is now Italy for collect clam shells. Its purpose was to use them as tools and scrapers.

Scientists knew that Neanderthals used tools, but it has been questioned to what extent they were able to exploit coastal resources. In this study, Paola Villa, from the University of Colorado (USA), and colleagues, studied artifacts from the Grotta dei Moscerini, a cave with a large number of clam shells modified by hand by Neanderthals, dating from approximately 100,000 years ago.

In total, the authors examined 171 modified artifacts, most of which had been retouched to be used as scrapers. All these shells belonged to the Mediterranean clam species Callista chione (blood clam). Due to the state of conservation of the shells, the damages suffered and the incrustation in them of marine organisms, the researchers concluded that almost a quarter of them had been collected from the bottom of the sea, like live animals, instead of being recovered on the beach.

Map showing the location of Grotta dei Moscerini
Map showing the location of Grotta dei Moscerini – PLOS ONE

Pumice stones

In the same sediments of the cave, the authors also found abundant pumice stones probably used as abrasion tools. Apparently, they arrived through the sea currents of volcanoes erupting in the Gulf of Naples (70 km south) towards Moscerini beach, where they were collected by Neanderthals.

These findings join a growing list of evidence that Neanderthals in Western Europe they practiced immersion or diving in coastal waters to gather resources long before the anatomically modern man, Homo sapiens, bring these habits to the region.

The authors also point out that shell tools were abundant in sediment layers that had few stone tools, suggesting that Neanderthals could have resorted to shells in times when more typical stone materials were scarce. It is also possible that clam shells are appreciated because they have a sharp, sharp edge, which can be kept sharp, unlike flint tools. Anyway, the study demonstrates, once again, the sophisticated behavior of our relatives, who dared to leave the safety of the coast to venture underwater.

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