Italian archaeologists and scientists have found the first early signs of using fire and wood processing from Neanderthals. Neanderthals who lived in Tuscany in central Italy about 170,000 years ago probably used the fire to process wooden tools, which they then used to search for food.
Scientists studied 58 half-broken wooden tools, as well as 200 stone objects and many ancient elephant bones that were discovered in 2012 in excavations at the foot of a hill in Grosseto, southern Tuscany. The findings were dated from the Middle Pleistocene (171,000 years ago), when the surrounding area was inhabited by Neanderthals.
Researchers led by archaeologist Biancamaria Aranguren, of the Italian Ministry of Culture, who published the PNAS journal, concluded that the instruments, each of at least one meter in length, mainly of wood, as well as oak, cedar and frost, were used for the scraping of the soil for the purpose of harvesting plants or hunting small animals.
The microanalysis of the blackened surfaces of each tool revealed that it had been treated both by stones and by fire, so that at one end a blunt nose is created and on the other a rounded handle, so that it can be used more efficiently.
Given that the pyxus is one of the toughest and heaviest woods in Europe, researchers have pointed out that the new findings strengthen the belief in early Neanderthal’s skills in the field of fire technology, that is, the use of fire to modify of a material.
Neanderthals appeared in Europe perhaps 400,000 years ago, but it is unknown when they started using fire on a regular basis. To date, the earliest evidence of controlled use of fire by our cousins is about 130,000 years ago, according to Science.
Because wood decomposes faster than other materials such as stones and bones, it is very unusual to discover prehistoric wooden objects. The oldest wooden weapons have been found in Schenge, Germany, and are believed to have been constructed about 300,000 years ago by either our ancestor, the “Homo heidelbergensis” or Neanderthals.
For discovery-shock researchers have said. “I thought, but it is impossible! What is this?”, Said Aranguren. None of the other finds, the stone objects and the elephant bones, found along with the woods, did not bring the slightest trace of burning. On the other hand, some wooden tools were tanned not only at their two edges but throughout their length, which may mean that the fire was used to melt them.
To make sure this was possible, the researchers used the same prehistoric technique, using fire and pointed stones, to make their own tools of wooden branches and succeed. Similar wooden tools for food search use to date hunting traps in Australia and South Africa.
However, not all scientists are convinced. “Since there are no human bones associated with these wooden tools, how do we know that they were actually made of Neanderthals?” Wondered the paleoanthropologist Sara Bheli of New York University, who did not rule out that the builders were the ancestors of the ” (Homo sapiens).
But if it turns out that it was actually Neanderthals, then, as archaeologist John Rick of Stanford University in California said, “humanises the Neanderthals.”