Neanderthals had ’distinct cultures’: Ancient tool types show knowledge was passed down generations
2013 08 20

By Sarah Griffiths | dailymail.co.uk



Neanderthals were more culturally complex than previously thought, according to scientists who have studied prehistoric handaxes.
The design of handaxes, the multipurpose tool used by Neanderthals primarily to prepare food, were passed down the generations and demonstrate social learning in different groups living in what is now modern Europe.

Two cultural traditions existed among Neanderthals living in northern Europe between 115,000 to 35,000 years ago, the researchers said.



Dr Karen Ruebens from the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins at the University of Southampton examined the design of 1,300 stone tools originating from 80 Neanderthal sites in five European countries; France, Germany, Belgium, Britain and the Netherlands.

Dr Ruebens’ investigations uncovered new evidence that two separate handaxe traditions or designs existed; one in a region now spanning south-western France and Britain and the other in Germany and further to the East.

She also found an area covering modern day Belgium and the Netherlands that demonstrates a transition between the two.

She told MailOnline the handaxes were used for similar functions - to butcher animals, woodworking and hideworking - in both regions she studied and described them as ’multifunctional tools’.


A map of the area where the hand axe cultures were spread out during the Middle Pleistocene. The study found the design of handaxes was passed down generations in different groups living in what is now modern Europe

Dr Ruebens said: ’In Germany and France there appears to be two separate handaxe traditions, with clear boundaries, indicating completely separate, independent developments.

’The transition zone in Belgium and Northern France indicates contact between the different groups of Neanderthals, which is generally difficult to identify but has been much talked about, especially in relation to later contacts with groups of modern humans.’

’This area can be seen as a melting pot of ideas where mobile groups of Neanderthals, both from the eastern and western tradition, would pass by – influencing each other’s designs and leaving behind a more varied record of bifacial tools.’

The University of Southampton research has revealed Neanderthals in the western region made symmetrical, triangular and heart-shaped handaxes, while during the same time period, in the eastern region, they produced asymmetrically shaped bifacial knives.

Dr Ruebens said: ’Distinct ways of making a handaxe were passed on from generation to generation and for long enough to become visible in the archaeological record.

’This indicates a strong mechanism of social learning within these two groups and says something about the stability and connectivity of the Neanderthal populations.

’Making stone tools was not merely an opportunistic task. A lot of time, effort and tradition were invested and these tools carry a certain amount of socio-cultural information, which does not contribute directly to their function.’

The study also said other factors previously thought to have determined the shape of handaxes, including the raw materials available to Neanderthals, the function of their sites or the repeated reuse and sharpening of tools, didn’t have an impact.

She told MailOnline the ’cultural pattern overrides the other factors’.

Dr Reubens said: ’There was a habit to make the handaxes in a certain way [in distinct groups] that was passed down generation to generation.
’It was a conscious decision to make them [the tools] in a certain way.’
She also said that there was ’no link’ between the different shaped tools being used for different tasks.

The various shaped handaxes are all thought to be multipurpose prehistoric tools.

Dr Reubens’ research, which was published in the Journal of Human Evolution, adds to an emerging archaeological perspective on Neanderthal regionality, which is a concept also identified in studies of their skeletal and genetic features.


Article from: dailymail.co.uk




Tune into Red Ice Radio:

Danny Vendramini - Hour 1 - Them & Us: Neanderthal Predation Theory



Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

NATO Exercise in Ukraine Coincided with MH-17 Shoot-down
2014 07 24
Rapid Trident was omitted from the flurry of coverage on the shoot-down MH-17. From the U.S. Army in Europe website: Rapid Trident supports interoperability among Ukraine, the United States, NATO and Partnership for Peace member nations. The exercise helps prepare participants to operate successfully in a joint, multinational, integrated environment with host-nation support from civil and governmental agencies. ...
Warning of ’imminent’ terror attack in Norway
2014 07 24
Norwegians were warned Thursday of the concrete possibility of a terror attack occurring in that country at the hands of people with connections to an extremist group in Syria. A press conference was called in Oslo, Norway on Thursday where an announcement was made of a "possible concrete threat" to national security in that country from terrorists related to an extremist ...
Judge says government can access everything in a Gmail account
2014 07 24
All your emails are belong to us. At least that’s what the latest court order from a judge in New York says. The warrant, granted on June 11, states that the government can access all the content and files contained in a Gmail account. Yes, this is a significant blow to privacy. The subject of this specific search relates to a money laundering ...
Scotland Yard Spied on Grieving Families: secret surveillance after police victim shot seven times in head ’by mistake’
2014 07 24
More terror from the ’anti-terror’ brigade. Undercover police gathered evidence on 18 grieving families By Rob Evans and Vikram Dodd | The Guardian Undercover police officers secretly gathered intelligence over two decades on 18 families fighting to get justice from the police, it was revealed on Thursday. The intelligence covering high-profile campaigns was collected between the mid-1980s and 2005, and affected grieving families ...
Air Algerie AH5017 with 116 onboard goes missing for hours, found crashed in Mali
2014 07 24
An Air Algerie flight carrying 110 passengers and six crew members has reportedly crashed in Mali after having disappeared from radar early on Thursday morning between Burkina Faso and Algeria. A French Ministry of Defense official told Fox News that the two French fighter jets located the wreckage of the plane, which had crashed in Mali. An airport official additionally confirmed ...
More News »