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Neanderthals May Have Used Fire to Make Tools

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Neanderthal wooden toolTUSCANY, ITALY—Science Magazine reports that 58 nearly identical charred wood objects have been found at the site of Poggetti Vecchi, in an area where Neanderthal artifacts have been found in the past. The items are thought to be digging sticks, which are used by modern-day hunter-gatherers to uncover roots and tubers, and to hunt small, burrowing animals. They can also serve as weapons when needed. The artifacts are about three feet long, rounded on one end, and sharpened on the other, and have been dated to some 171,000 years ago, when Neanderthals lived in the region. The tips of the sticks had been charred, perhaps as a way to remove the bark from the various hard woods, including boxwood, oak, ash, and juniper. The pattern of char is similar on a number of the sticks, which suggests it was intentional. The char marks could also be the earliest-known use of fire by Neanderthals. Cut marks on the shafts of the sticks suggest they had been shaped with stone tools. Some 200 stone tools were also found at the site, along with the fossilized remains of the extinct straight-tusked elephant. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”

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