Discovery shows that ancient Neanderthals could have now how to make and use string and rope. The experts have found small bits of a twisted plant fiber on an old stone tool. These types of elaborate cords are easy to miss and so often disregarded. However, the importance of the twisted fibers stands in the history of the people who walked this earth before us, as reported in the study published in the Scientific Reports journal.
Researchers unearthed an ancient string made by Neanderthals
These tiny bits of cords reveal one of the critical technologies that our ancestors used to survive. The old technique of making strings and ropes were used to make clothes, bags, and even shelters.
The discovery dates back to about 41,000 to 52,000 years ago. How amazing is that? This old piece of string was preserved on a flint tool. The reason why scientists believe that it belongs to the Neanderthals is because of the location where it was found. This string part of the prehistoric time was discovered in a cave that resembles a rock shelter. The cave is located in southern France, where the Neanderthals once lived.
What does this discovery mean to science? It means that our ancestors were not as dumb as scientists believed them to be. This piece of string is yet another evidence that the prehistoric people that walked this planet were smart.
“They are this sort of ultimate ‘other,’ this creature that is very similar to us yet somehow is supposed to be too stupid to live,” said Bruce Hardy, a paleoanthropologist at Kenyon College in Ohio. Neanderthals were not dumb people, according to Hardy. They have lived for many thousands of years before going extinct about 40,000 years ago.
The life of the ancient humans
Understanding how the prehistoric people lived is strict when we don’t have enough evidence to see and analyze.”Almost everything that we want to see is gone,” Hardy said. “And so we have to try to find ways to get as much as we can out of the material that we do have.”
How can a piece of string be preserved? This concept is not fully understood by the scientists yet. The paleoanthropologist explanation is that if a tool is put on top of another material, it could create some kind of capsule-like preservation.
“Starch grains, bits, and pieces of plants, hair, feathers — things like this can all survive,” Hardy said. When the expert was analyzing the stone tool, he noticed some flecks of white via the microscope. “It was a mass of twisted fibers,” he said. “It was clear that we had something as soon as I saw it.”
Using a more sophisticated microscope, Hardy confirmed that “What we have found is a small fragment of a three-ply cord.” The fibers used to make the string originates from an evergreen tree. “There are three bundles of fibers that are twisted counterclockwise, and then those bundles, once they are twisted, are twisted back the other way, clockwise, around each other to form a cord or string,” he added.
Some scientists disagree
Previous discoveries of similar structures of cord were found to be about 19,000 years old. The first fragments of such a rope were found in Israel. Another discovery reveals some marks left in clay that look very similar to woven fibers. The recent discovery dates back to about 37,000 years ago. Could the discovery of the piece of string be nature created, some may wonder? The answer is given to us by Marie-Hélène Moncel of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.
Moncel is part of the team of researchers that made the new discovery and says that there is no way the twisted structure is part of the nature. The prehistoric structure found on the tool was intentionally made. That means that the ancient humans created it. “It was amazing,” she said. “It is clear that this is related to Neanderthals.”
However, some experts disagree. “The idea that this cordage is necessarily made by Neanderthals, that is open to question,” said John Shea, a paleoanthropologist at Stony Brook University in New York. “You still have to keep an open mind. That just means that Neanderthals were present. It doesn’t rule out the possibility that humans were wandering around this same part of the world at the same time.” Still, he added: “We’ve long suspected that earlier humans and Neanderthals had some kind of cordage, some means by which to attach one thing to another. This is, as far as I know, some of the first definitive proof.”