Neanderthals were adept at fashioning stone tools held together with a multi-component adhesive, a discovery unearthed by researchers from New York University, the University of Tübingen, and the National Museums of Berlin, as detailed in a study published in Science Advances. This revelation, marking the earliest known use of complex adhesive technology in Europe, implies a higher level of cognitive and cultural sophistication among these ancient human ancestors than previously assumed.

Radu Iovita, an associate professor at New York University’s Center for the Study of Human Origins, remarked, “These exceptionally well-preserved tools exhibit a technical approach reminiscent of early modern human toolmaking in Africa, yet with a distinctive Neanderthal touch—particularly in the crafting of handles for handheld tools.”

Under the leadership of Patrick Schmidt from the University of Tübingen’s Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, alongside Ewa Dutkiewicz from the Museum of Prehistory and Ancient History at the National Museums of Berlin, the research team revisited Le Moustier, a French archaeological site discovered in the early 20th century. Stone tools from this site, utilized by Neanderthals during the Middle Paleolithic Mousterian period spanning from 120,000 to 40,000 years ago, had been stored in the Museum of Prehistory and Ancient History in Berlin without detailed examination.

Dutkiewicz explained, “These artifacts had been individually wrapped and left untouched since the 1960s, resulting in remarkably well-preserved organic residues.” Upon closer inspection, researchers identified traces of a mixture of ochre and bitumen on various stone tools like scrapers, flakes, and blades. Ochre, a natural pigment, combined with bitumen, a component of asphalt derived from crude oil or naturally occurring in the ground, offered insight into Neanderthal material practices and technological prowess.

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