Neanderthals Were a Lot More Intelligent Than They Looked

Article excerpt

Neanderthals were not dumb, lumbering idiots after all. New evidence suggests that they had considerable technical and intellectual skills, as well as ingenuity, to put them on a par with modern humans.

A team of archaeologists and scientists has discovered that Neanderthals, thought to have first appeared around 230,000 to 300,000 years ago, were capable of a sophisticated tool manufacturing process using prehistoric superglue that had to be made at a precise temperature.

"This finding demonstrates that the Neanderthals must have possessed a high degree of technical and manual abilities, comparable to those of modern Homo sapiens," says a report of the new research.

Professor Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, says the discovery is potentially very important: "It would further show that the behaviour gap between us and Neanderthals is narrower than we thought. Some may say there isn't a gap."

The new finding, by a team of German researchers, also puts a question mark over theories that Neanderthals disappeared because they were no intellectual match for humankind's ancestors.

The research centres on a new analysis of two samples of blackish- brown pitch discovered in a lignite open-mining pit in the foothills of the Harz mountains in Germany. Their geological location suggests they are more than 80,000 years old.

One of the pitch pieces bears the print of a finger and there are also imprints of a flint stone tool and wood, suggesting that the pitch had served as a sort of glue to secure a wooden shaft to a flint stone blade.

In the research, carried out at the Doerner-Institut in Munich, the scientists set out to discover the chemical composition of the pitch, its biological origins, and the amount of skill and ability needed to make it. …