Credit: NASA Archaeologists working in two Italian caves have discovered some of the earliest known examples of ancient humans using an adhesive on their stone tools—an important technological advance called "hafting."
The new study, which included CU Boulder's Paola Villa, shows that Neanderthals living in Europe from about 55 to 40 thousand years ago traveled away from their caves to collect resin from pine trees.
"We continue to find evidence that the Neanderthals were not inferior primitives but were quite capable of doing things that have traditionally only been attributed to modern humans," said Villa, corresponding author of the new study and an adjoint curator at the CU Museum of Natural History.
Credit: Degano et al. 2019, PLOS ONE In a recent study of the tools, Villa and her colleagues noticed a strange residue on just a handful of the flints—bits of what appeared to be organic material.
Villa explained that the Italian Neanderthals didn't just resort to their bare hands to use stone tools.
Credit: Paola Villa The find isn't the oldest known example of hafting by Neanderthals in Europe—two flakes discovered in the Campitello Quarry in central Italy predate it.