Washington: Researchers have suggested that it may have been Neanderthals, and not modern humans, who made first specialized bone tools in Europe.
One day in 2011, undergraduate student Naomi Martisius was sorting through tiny bone remnants in the University of California, Davis, paleoanthropology lab when she stumbled across a peculiar piece.
The bone fragment, from a French archaeological site, turned out to be a part of an early specialized bone tool used by a Neanderthal before the first modern humans appeared in Europe.
Teresa E. Steele, associate professor of anthropology at UC Davis, who also served as a co-author on the article and adviser to Martisius at UC Davis and at archaeological excavations in France, said that previously these types of bone tools have only been associated with modern humans.
She said that their identification of these pieces in secure Neanderthal contexts leaves open the possibility that they have found, for the first time, evidence that Neanderthals may have influenced the technology of modern humans.
Used to smooth tough animal hides, the tools were made about 50,000 years ago by Neanderthals -- not just the humans who came after them, as researchers had earlier theorized. The specialized tools are still used today, in similar form, to smooth and refine leather made into high-end purses and jackets.
The bone tools were found in deposits containing typical Neanderthal stone tools and the bones of hunted animals including reindeer, red deer and bison. Three of the four pieces were from the site of Abri Peyrony, France.