September 27, 2010
Neanderthals’ Tools Were Their Own Work
By SINDYA N. BHANOO
Neanderthals living in southern Italy 42,000 years ago developed bone
and stone tools, decorative ornaments and pigments on their own, not
through interactions with Homo sapiens, according to Julien Riel-
Salvatore, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado, Denver.
Until now, tools and ornaments used by Neanderthals were thought to
have come about because of contact with the species that replaced
them. But Dr. Riel-Salvatore said his paper in the Journal of
Archaeological Method and Theory “counters the persistent idea about
Neanderthals and shows that they were really able to innovate.” Dr.
Riel-Salvatore spent several years studying artifacts from Neanderthal
communities in southern and central Italy as well as human artifacts
from the same time period in northern Italy.
Humans in northern Italy developed a diverse set of tools unique from
those found in the Neanderthal community of southern Italy.
Meanwhile, Neanderthals in central Italy used the same large,
primitive stone tools for 100,000 years, taking no inspiration from
their neighbors to the north or south, Dr. Riel-Salvatore said
“If humans introduced tools to southern Italy, you would have found
these new tools in central Italy first; that would be the natural
geographic progression,” he said.
Because Neanderthals in central Italy were so primitive, it is likely
that the innovations in the north and south occurred independently, he
Until recently, it was also unclear whether Neanderthals and humans
interbred, but earlier this year, researchers determined that
Neanderthals mated with some modern humans.