Neanderthal Glue

8 Oct 2018

At ... experiment reveals the secret behind Neanderthal glue. Most human societies used glue in one form or another to fix bone and stone to shafts of wood - in combination with other measures such as joints and bindings. In Europe the Neanderthals occupied a large part of prehistory - deep into Middle Pleistocene. They became extinct, for unknown reasons, around 40,000 years ago. At this time modern anatomical humans arrive on the scene having apparently replaced the Neanderthals from Europe and western Asia. The discovery of Neanderthals led to the evolutionary theory, then in vogue, of stupid replaced by not so stupid, to wonderful fully human cognizance. This meant it became ideologically convenient to label Neanderthals as brutes rather than humans - a bit like the hockey stick in fact. Flat as a pancake with a sudden dip upwards in the recent era. Unfortunately for the ideologues the continued archaeological search for our prehistoric past has led to the realisation that Neanderthals were not so very different than modern people - in a variety of ways. Now, it seems, they even used glue, just like modern human hunter gatherers - or even the modern worker in wood. Their glue did not come in tubes or tubs but was derived from natural resources and this link provides a description of how this was achieved - using pine wood or birch bark. Suddenly, instead of Neanderthals armed with lumps of stone we have Neanderthals creating a diverse package of tools and weapons. It is already known they used spears to kill prey, in some circumstances, and just because hand axes are the most survivable item in their tool repertoire clearly does not mean this was the summit of their achievement. It is all a matter of luck what will survive down the ages - and wood usually rots. Not always of course, as it can be preserved in certain conditions. In this instance, traces of glue were found at a couple of Neanderthal sites and a group of researchers experimented in order to discover just how it might have been produced in prehistoric times. Interestring read.

The article is in Scientific Reports. Meanwhile, at ... Neanderthals nursed their sick and injured, it would seem, and according to the authors this allowed them to survive in hostile environments on the edge of the ice sheet over thousands of years. They had feelings and did not want their loved ones to die, it would seem - another common human trait. Actually, quite normal behaviour for humans when you come to think of it. One is left to think why it is just Europe that has this divide - between the Neanderthal brutes and the arrival of modern humans. It obviously goes back to the 19th and early 20th centuries where European universities and researchers were schooled into the idea of evolutionary change on the human tree. We now have Neanderthals doing cave art and glueing bone to wood and nursing sick people and hunting big animals in packs with spears and constructing musical implements etc, all skills once only attributed to the more modern human types. The old evolutionary model is peculiar to Europe as in Africa we are now told there were humans with modern anatomical features as far back as 100,000 years ago or more. Why have the European institutions not got up to date when it comes to Neanderthals. Does ideology trump science when it comes to museum presentations for public consumption? The switch from Neanderthal to modern human can be explained by a bottle neck (a catastrophic event of some kind). All Europeans have Neanderthal genes - but only at a small percentage. Why might that be so?