Experts

Neanderthals Were the First to Use Specialized Bone Tools

Cheri Cheng
August 12, 2013 02:45 PM EDT

For over millions of years, humans have progressed and evolved creating complex tools throughout the years. Based on artifacts and fossils in combination with research, scientists have known that people have used tools made from all kinds of materials. Now in a new study, two research teams were able to discover the first specialized set of bone tools created by Neanderthals in Europe.

The teams from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany and the University of Leiden in the Netherlands found a bone tool from their excavations. The tool was located in two Paleolithic sites in southwest France. The item is known as a lissoir or smoother and is used for creating a higher quality of leather. The lissoir is created from deer ribs that are polished to create a sharp tip. The tip is then used to push against a hide, which produces softer leather that is more water resistant. After 50 thousand years, the scientists believe that this specific bone tool is still used today by leather workers.

"For now the bone tools from these two sites are one of the better pieces of evidence we have for Neanderthals developing on their own a technology previously associated only with modern humans", said Shannon McPherron of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

"If Neanderthals developed this type of bone tool on their own, it is possible that modern humans then acquired this technology from Neanderthals. Modern humans seem to have entered Europe with pointed bone tools only, and soon after started to make lissoirs. This is the first possible evidence for transmission from Neanderthals to our direct ancestors," said Marie Soressi of Leiden University.

McPherron worked with Michel Lenoir from the University of Bordeaux in France where they were excavating the Arbi Pevronv site. They had located three of the bones at this site that were extremely small. Soressi found four of the bone tools with her team at the classic Neanderthal site of Pech-de-l'Azé I.

The research teams noted that the tools could have been created after the Neanderthals were influenced by modern Europeans. However, they could not conclude if that was the case. The press release for this report can be found here