Tool Time in the Stone Age

Article excerpt

Neandertals pursued a variety of toolmaking strategies in their settlements, showing an aptitude often attributed only to modern humans, according to an investigation of Stone Age artifacts in a Spanish rock shelter.

This finding adds to evidence that behaviors long assumed to have originated among modern humans beginning around 40,000 years ago actually appeared much earlier among other Homo species, including Neandertals (SN: 7/3/99, p. 4).

Manuel Vaquero of Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain, analyzed the spatial distribution of numerous stone implements from two sediment layers in northeastern Spain's Abric Romani rock shelter. All the tools display a manufacturing style previously linked to Neandertals.

The upper soil layer, already dated at around 45,000 years old, shows signs of brief occupations by small groups, Vaquero contends. Stone tools and debris from toolmaking form three small clusters. Artifacts consist of relatively small, easily fashioned cutting instruments, each of which was prepared from start to finish at workstations set apart from other activities.

The lower layer, dated at about 50,000 years old, presents a contrasting picture of extended occupations by large groups, Vaquero reports in the September ANTIQUITY. …