origin of humans; migration to Europe (Origins)

by David Turell @, Thursday, February 01, 2024, 15:32 (80 days ago) @ David Turell

Specific tools found from before 35,000 years ago:


"In 2015, archaeologists working at a cave in southwestern Germany found an enigmatic perforated baton in a cave called Hohle Fels. It was a near-perfect match for an artifact found in 1983 in a cave down the road. Carved from single pieces of mammoth ivory, the Hohle Fels baton—roughly 20 centimeters long, about the length of a large paperback book—had multiple holes with spiraling grooves around the openings.

"Similar objects have been found elsewhere in Germany and in nearby France, often made from ivory or antler. They date from the last ice age, more than 35,000 years ago, a time when human hunters and foragers were flourishing across Europe and creating cave paintings, figurines, and other expressions of creativity. In the past, many archaeologists interpreted these batons as a noisemaker or ritual object, a sort of ice age magic wand or scepter. “Ritualism was something they used to ascribe everything to,” says Wei Chu, an archaeologist at Leiden University.

"In a new paper out today in Science Advances, researchers suggest the tools were used for a more prosaic purpose: to make rope.


"After removing tiny bits of soil near the holes, Veerle Rots, an archaeologist at the University of Liège and co-author of the new research, peered at their edges under a microscope and found tiny plant in much higher concentrations than in the surrounding soil. “The combination of looking at it, seeing the grooves were intentionally made, and finding those fibers made us think it was a tool” used for turning plant fiber into rope, Rots says.

"Although perishable items such as fabric and cord haven’t survived the millennia, hunter-gatherers couldn’t have survived without them. Twine, cord, and rope were needed for a host of tasks, including fastening stone points to spears, tying down tents, and securing packages of meat. “Cords are very important in people’s lives, but we hardly ever have traces of them,” Rots says. “This tool permitted us to reflect on the whole process.”

"Once the researchers had a hypothesis, they set out to test it. An expert carver recreated copies of the baton, first out of wood and then—because mammoth ivory was difficult to come by—the tusk of an African warthog.

"The team next turned to historic depictions of ropemaking. In the Middle Ages, ropemakers used blocks of wood with similar-size drilled holes. By pulling fibers through adjacent holes, artisans working in teams of three or four were able to maintain tension on the fibers while braiding them into multistrand ropes. With a little practice, the archaeologists found their replica tool “works very efficiently and quickly to make thick cords with very little effort,” Rots says.

"The researchers managed to fashion 5 meters of rope in about 10 minutes with their replica batons. For fiber, they used everything from flax and hemp to cattail reeds—all plants that would have grown near the Hohle Fels and Geissenklösterle caves 30,000 years ago. The ropes proved capable of supporting the weight of one of the team’s larger members. Reeds made the strongest rope fiber.


"The find is more evidence the “cave man” designation applied to people in the past underestimates their innovative capacities. “People back then weren’t stupid,” Conard says. “They knew how to do all kinds of things.'”

Comment: the illustrations show the actual process. The final paragraph says it all. H. sapiens were bright folks.

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