Neanderthals may have been the first to carefully relate this article: ScienceAlert

The first synthetic fermentation on planet Earth may not have been a product of our species, but was invented by a close relative long ago. About 200,000 years ago.

Researchers from the University of Tübingen and the State Museum of Prehistory in Germany and the University of Strasbourg in France recently performed a complex chemical analysis on Neanderthal artifacts made using birch tar, and concluded that how they were extracted was not accidental.

birch tar It is a black viscous substance that has been used since ancient times for its various adhesive, waterproof and even antimicrobial properties. Some of the first people in Europe used it to connect parts of their tools together.

The substance could be extracted from birch bark using heat, but scientists disagree on whether Neanderthals produced tar on purpose or if it was just the result of enjoying a warm fire.

some thought of black tar as a happy accident that Neanderthals simply scraped from the surrounding rocks after burning the birch bark. Others think the waterproof adhesive was carefully crafted in an underground kiln long before our species learned the trick.

This may sound like a pedantic brawl, but it is generally assumed that intentionally distilling useful substances from raw materials is another activity that distinguishes human intelligence from other species.

based on analysis Two birch logs found at an archaeological site in Germanythis Another study argues that “birch tar may document advanced technology, forward planning, and cultural ability in Neanderthals.”

Analysis of the chemistry of the artifacts indicates that they were deprived of oxygen during their formation. This low-oxygen appearance could, in theory, be achieved in a number of ways, so the researchers tested various approaches.

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Two methods burned birch bark above ground, while three methods were used in an underground kiln of some sort.

Burning birch bark above the ground allowed tar to be condensed on the tops of open-air stones or domes of sticks. Underground methods basically meant burying rolled birch bark under a fire.

Two pieces of birch tar (a) and the five methods (bf) of birch tar extraction were tested. (Schmidt et al., Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences2023)

In the end, only birch tar made underground had the same chemical signature as ancient artifacts found in Germany.

the findings Suggest Neanderthal tar is not the serendipitous result of “accidental operations in open air fires” but a complex underground technology that must be carefully planned, since it cannot be monitored once buried.

Such a complex preparation required a specific recipe that had to be strictly followed. Researchers say the practice may have been invented through trial and error, with incremental improvements increasing over time.

If Neanderthals were really making tar 200,000 years ago, that trumps any evidence of it. Homo sapiens Tar making by 100,000 years.

“So” researchers He writesWhat we show here for the first time is that Neanderthals invented and refined a transformational technology, likely independently of the influence of Homo sapiens. “

Previous discoveries have shown that Neanderthals had a complex diet involving multiple steps to food preparation. However, their use of fire may not be limited to heating or cooking.

The intelligence of our former cousins ​​should not be underestimated any longer.

The study has been published in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

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