Neanderthal toolsWhat types of tools did Neanderthals use and develop?

The record of Neanderthals is nothing short of spectacular. Countless sites contain the traces of the people who were once our closest relatives, allowing archaeologists and anthropologists to recreate and reconstruct their activities over the millennia. And if one thing is certain from these reconstructions, it’s that Neanderthals were talented toolmakers.

That intriguing look made and manipulated an elaborate array of ancient tools, including spears, scrapers and saws, which they fashioned from stone and several less durable materials, like a tree. And although Neanderthal tools were previously portrayed as rudimentary and brutish, scientists now emphasize a new story: These tools were as innovative and important as those made by our own ancestors.

When were Neanderthals discovered?

When European archaeologists and anthropologists began to come across the first Neanderthal fossils almost two centuries ago, they did not imagine that they had discovered a separate species. While their initial research inspired them to think they had identified some of the oldest specimens of Homo sapiens in Europe, it was only years later that they realized that the remains represented a completely different species, completely separate from ours.

Named Homo neanderthalensis after the Neander Valley sites where some of the specimens were first foundthe shape of the skull of the species—which was low and long — and the construction of the body of the species — which was short and stocky— were originally interpreted as indicating that Neanderthals were neither intelligent nor innovative. And despite the fact that some of these first fossils were buried next to them caches of stone toolsNeanderthals were fast branded as a type of rude people.

Read more: Who were the Neanderthals?

In fact, the unique anatomy of the Neanderthals allowed the species to survive the coldest conditions of the Ice Age in Europe. And along with that ability was a whole host of adaptive behaviors, the sum of which made these individuals so much more advanced than their discoverers were probably willing to admit.

Read more: The fascinating world of Neanderthal diet, language, and other behaviors

Social structure affected Neanderthal tools and weapons

From the origin of the species around 400,000 years ago until their disappearance around 40,000 years agoNeanderthals were somewhat solitary, spending their time in small wandering tribes with 12 to 25 persons. that said some research begin to suggest that they too have come together in much more essential groups too.

Never willing to stay in the same space, these tribes bounced between them several sites according to the season, returning sporadically to the same localities centuries. But these tribes were not completely cut off from their counterparts, they sometimes meet 10 to 20 other troops with whom they shared similar social identities and skill sets.

What tools did Neanderthals use?

Of course, one of the most important skill sets for these people involved crafting ancient tools.

Stone flakes

Almost from beginning of the speciesthis centered around the creation of complex stone ‘scales’ with flat faces, thin, sharp sides and a sense of cutting, gouging and scraping.

To form these scales, Neanderthals selected small pieces of stone, also called “cores,” and trimmed their sides until they took on the shape of a tortoise shell—flat on one side and spherical on the other. They then smashed the top of the weathered stone with a single blow, spitting out flakes of standard shape and size, which were then used as tools.

Basic technique

Neanderthals developed different versions of this particular “prepared core” technique in different areas and at different times depending on their desires, abilities, access to rocks, and relationships with each other as these techniques were streamed and shared socially. When developed, all of these different approaches produced a specific shape and size of flakes that were optimized for a specific purpose.

Read more: Ancient Predators: A Guide to Neanderthal Hunting

Neanderthal tools and their use

Some research say that Neanderthals made up to 60 forms of scales, all suited to specific functions. And although the species mastered some of these tools without further shaping and sharpening, they too modified many others in more complex, more specialized tools, including points, scrapers, saws and awls. Until their later years, Neanderthals even fashioned scales long and large enough to be turned into blades.

Clothing manufacturing

Neanderthals used these tools to butcher animals, to work wood and other malleable materials, and to prepare and punch holes in skins that were then tied together to create clothing. And although the species strong, qualified their hands helped manipulate these tools, Neanderthals after all interrupted their tools to make them even easier to maneuver by placing them in handles and securing them with ties and adhesives such as birch tarwhich is formulated from the bark of birch trees.

Cutting meat

today, archaeologists understand the use of these tools by their shape, size and wear pattern. In fact, all the tools they found in Neanderthal sites showed unique scratch marks. Tools used to shape stone show a different type of damage than those used to shape other materials or cut meat, for example.

But some scientists point out that many of the Neanderthal tools were not so well preserved. While archaeologists have found an abundance of stone tools, they have identified far fewer tools made by others more brittle or fragile materialsalthough their findings of wooden spears and bone lissoars suggest that Neanderthals also manipulated these materials.

Read more: Neanderthals may have used animal skulls as decoration

What tools did Neanderthals not use?

The age of many artifacts suggests that Neanderthals came up with the ideas for their tools themselves, although some scientists I suspect that H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens could have shared tool-making strategies during periods of population overlap.

Although both species had been making comparable tools for thousands of years prior to these periods, one study states that almost 3,000 years of coexistence in France and Spain may have involved an exchange of ideas, explaining the striking similarities in the material cultures of the two species in the area.

Fiber and Weapons Technology

On the other hand, there are also several tools from the time that scientists believe were a specialty of our own species, including several forms of fiber and weapon technology. Additional to theirs bows and arrows, H. sapiens even made needles from bones and antlers around 60,000 years ago, paving the way for warmer, tighter clothing, although there is no indication that Neanderthals did the same before their demise.

A projectile weapon

that said archaeologists always find surprising new traces of Neanderthal technology, highlighting the importance of further work in their field. Some research suggest, for example, that Neanderthals were involved in throwing weapons, with their skeletons showing signs of throwing trauma and theirs copies has the right shape and size to fly through the air.

String and rope

Some scientists add also that Neanderthals were also adept at twisting fibers together, producing the world’s first forms of string. In fact, the early rope examples can be considered indicative of a much more intensive fiber industry, potentially involving the production of fabrics, bags, baskets and nets.

Read more: Neanderthals hunted and ate elephants with straight tusks

Why did Neanderthals eventually decline?

Now that their advanced toolmaking abilities are so well documented, traditional theory that the Neanderthals went extinct because of the technological superiority of our own species does not stand up to much scrutiny. Instead, scientists emphasize that climate change, disease and demographic weakness can be combined with interspecies competition and assimilation to wipe out the Neanderthals about 40,000 years ago.

Read more: Why did the Neanderthals disappear?

In general, archaeologists and anthropologists have abandoned the idea that Neanderthals were fools who wandered the world without sophisticated, specialized tools. And as their findings furthered their appreciation of the species’ tools and tool-making strategies, they concluded that the species was once one of the most ingenious in the human toolbox.

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