50,000 Year-Old String Shows Neanderthals Were Technologically Advanced

Cord Fragment

Photograph of the cord fragment taken by digital microscopy (the fragment is approximately 6.2 mm long and 0.5 mm wide). Credit: © C2RMF

The discovery of the oldest known direct evidence of fiber technology — using natural fibers to create yarn — is reported in Scientific Reports this week. The finding furthers our understanding of the cognitive abilities of Neanderthals during the Middle Palaeolithic period (30,000-300,000 years ago).

Bruce Hardy and colleagues discovered a six-millimeter-long cord fragment consisting of three bundles of fibers twisted together and adhering to a 60-millimeter-long, thin stone tool. The authors speculate that the cord was wrapped around the tool as a handle or was part of a net or bag containing the tool. They date the cord fragment, which they discovered in Abri du Maras, France, to between 41,000-52,000 years ago. Using spectroscopy and microscopy, they identified that the cord likely consists of fibers taken from the inner bark of a non-flowering tree such as a conifer.

Cord Fragment Scanning Electron Microscopy

Detail of the cord fragment showing twisted fibers, observed by scanning electron microscopy. Credit: © MNHN

The authors suggest that production of the cord would have required extensive knowledge of the growth and seasonality of the trees used. They also speculate that Neanderthals may have needed an understanding of mathematical concepts and basic numeracy skills to create bundles of fibers (yarn), the three-ply cord, and rope from multiple cords.

Prior to this discovery the oldest discovered fiber fragments in the Ohalo II site in Israel dated back to around 19,000 years ago. The findings of the new study suggest that fiber technology is much older, and that the cognitive abilities of Neanderthals may have been more similar to those of modern humans than previously thought.

For more on this discovery, see Neanderthals Were as Technologically Advanced as Homo Sapiens.

Reference: “Direct evidence of Neanderthal fibre technology and its cognitive and behavioral implications” by B. L. Hardy, M.-H. Moncel, C. Kerfant, M. Lebon, L. Bellot-Gurlet and N. Mélard, 9 April 2020, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-61839-w

20 Comments on "50,000 Year-Old String Shows Neanderthals Were Technologically Advanced"

  1. We go through periods where we tolerate techies, then the political leaders grab back the spotlight. Ya gotta know some neanderthal “leader” took credit for “his” way of bundling sticks — then was overthown by “Ug the magnificent” who shouted we could hold sticks together with our hands!

    The engineers of Rome built the Coliseum with amazing technology like metal holding the place together and supported marble. Why is it “eaten away” at one end? For 1900 years the un-techie Romans let their leaders own parts of the building and let the citizens pull it apart to build lesser structures.

    50 years ago we took a Giant Step for Mankind on the Moon. Then our leaders for a half century decided money would be better spent buying votes and turned our NASA into “outreach”.

    Hey scientists, hey techies — revel in your discovery before your “betters” in politics decide they need the spotlight again to stay in their cushy jobs.

  2. Harry Ballbag | April 11, 2020 at 9:55 pm | Reply

    Yea right… that is probably 10 years old. Remember when someone buried chicken bones for 2 years then took it to some top scientists for dating? They said the bones were 100,000 years old… bunch of yahoos!

    • Clark Westfield | April 12, 2020 at 8:58 am | Reply

      No. I don’t remember that. Please give a citation.

    • neandertalsrus | April 12, 2020 at 10:52 pm | Reply

      I have seen lots of recent (50 years or less) animal bones and they do NOT look like ancient bones. Recent bones are greasy and shiny whereas old bones are dried out and dull. And if someone took a set of greasy, shiny chicken bones to a scientist specializing in animal remains they would have realized immediately they were bird bones (which are hollow) and compared them to various bird skeletons to find out what species they were. And discovered they were chicken bones. There is no way a scientist would have wasted thousands of dollars or more to obtain a radiocarbon date on such a set of bones only to be told they were recent. Where did you read this story?

  3. Great Discovery. Neanderthal weapons were more efficient than humans and they also had burial rites before humans did, so this finding match the other ones, I’d say.

  4. “Interesting” I have read articles,books and researchers stating that Neanderthals walked on Earth 4.0 million years to an Extinction 40,000 years ago. My point is that Neanderthals time on Earth had to have developed in some advancement. Sapiens, (Us Humans) are very bias toward the species called Neanderthals. My debate is not to insult the intelligence of researchers who debate if Neanderthal walked on Earth 4.5 Million years ago (Some researchers may disagree) but after walking on Earth for 4.5 million years as a mammal you have to learn something (Anything considered as a homo advancement). A.G

  5. so they found a fragment of string and then surmise what it was used for and then claim that Neanderthals were technologically advanced. This articles reek of racism. Previously neanderthals were thought to be simpletons, but when the scientist discovered white people have those genes still, they began a marketing campaign to explain how advanced the neanderthals were.

    They don’t know what the string was used for. They have zero ability to infer that. Maybe the tool it was attached to was actually a cog in their flying car.

    • Clark Westfield | April 12, 2020 at 9:03 am | Reply

      Scientists figured out that Neanderthals were far more intelligent than the 19th century concept of the “savage brute” long before it was discovered that “white people” had their DNA. Indeed, most black people outside of sub-saharan Africa have it as well. Your comment is an ignorant, racist attempt to inject bigotry where it does not belong. You should be ashamed of yourself!

  6. Allen Lasater | April 12, 2020 at 7:54 am | Reply

    Tom, your entire comment stinks of paranoia and dementia. You’ve drawn such bizarre connections, in a way a cheap conspiracy theorist might. Just keep your ramblings to yourself from now on.

  7. Clark Westfield | April 12, 2020 at 9:09 am | Reply

    I don’t think this is surprising at all and I don’t know why it’s presented that way. It has been known for a very long time by intelligent and educated people that neanderthals were very clever people who often lived in very harsh conditions – and survived them well. I have to guess that it’s because of the pop-culture concept of the “caveman”. Seriously, can we move past that? Turn off the Flintstones.

  8. What scientists are doing now are similar to finding our pasts, our ancestors who lived on earth thousands, thousands lifetimes ago. Our earth had gone through many life cycles, and many apocalypses had happened that destroy all mankind on earth. Perhaps, what scientists have found are just the marks of the nearest civilizations on earth. Our current civilization on earth are mostly dated back to 2000 B.C. and our calendar is just started since the birth of Jesus. To our Earth’s lifetime, we are just a tiny baby in our knowledge so we should not belittle our religions and spiritual guidances. They may have visions to see things beyond the scientists could see.

    • Deborah Philips | April 12, 2020 at 11:48 am | Reply

      Bullsh**. Your mystic thoughts and feelings have nothing to do with reality. If there were many cycles of advanced civilizations that have lived on this planet, don’t you think we would have found at least 50,000 year old car, or cell phone, or gun, or airplane? We have found dinosaur teeth and bones literally millions of years old, but yet you believe ancient advanced civilizations have gone through apocalyptic demise and we have no evidence? I suggest you stick to religion. It requires blind faith and belief from nothing, which you clearly believe is better than discovery, evidence, and peer review.

  9. Really? Shouldn’t we be focusing our efforts and resources into something that might actually advance our race? Is it REALLY necessary to keep studying Neanderthal technology? I don’t see how that’s going to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

  10. They were working on the super string theory of the universe, we really don’t appreciate how advanced they were

  11. Interesting….perhaps the best they could do, but the xbox or pentium 2 would have really been something to brag about. Of course everything is relative. They are just smarter than we originally thought.

  12. why did the scientists only show that little bit of string? why didn’t they show the buried airplane where they found the string?

  13. Neanderthals r us | April 12, 2020 at 10:39 pm | Reply

    I wonder how many of the commentators on this discovery could make a piece of string our of plant fibers themselves? Pretty humbling that Neanderthals can do something that you or I cannot do. And the belief that they were unintelligent dimwits has been dead as a doornail for at least the last 60 years if not longer. Our continued amazement that they can do things that we thought only fully modern humans could do–Making stone tool and fire, creating art, and burying people–says more about us than it does about them.

  14. Finally! A genuine advance in String Theory!

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