24 June 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

45,000 years ago, Neanderthals in the Swabian Jura used complex tool-making techniques

Findings that will change our perception of Neanderthals’ sophistication

A team from the University of Tübingen have proved that Middle Paleolithic people in the Swabian Jura employed experience, planning, and skill when manufacturing stone tools.

It’s still impossible to say how smart the Neanderthals were, but it’s clear that they were far more intelligent than previously imagined.

Stone tools were made by Neanderthals living in the Swabian Jura more than 45,000 years ago using complex methods and a variety of manufacturing tactics. (Modern humans first arrived in Europe 43,000 years ago during the last ice age.)

Many stone artifacts and byproducts of the toolmaking process have been discovered at the Heidenschmiede site. The researchers replaced the parts created from stone cores and were able to demonstrate the procedures employed in the process, which required preparation and thinking.

Dr. Berrin Çep, Benjamin Schürch, and Dr. Jens Axel Frick of the Institute of Prehistory and Medieval Archaeology, as well as Dr. Susanne Münzel of the Institute of Scientific Archaeology, all of the University of Tübingen, published the results of their research in the journal PLOS ONE.

The findings demonstrate that Neanderthals had highly developed skills once again.

Swabian Jura cave
Swabian Jura cave. Photo: UNESCO

The Heidenschmiede, a rock shelter in Heidenheim in southern Germany, was found and excavated in 1928 by amateur archaeologist Hermann Mohn, who identified it as an important site for early human stone and bone activity.

“Our study is the first detailed investigation since then that deals with the many finds and classifies them in more detail,” explains Benjamin Schürch.

The bone and stone tools originate from the Middle Paleolithic and are at least 50,000 to 42,000 years old, according to him. “In this period, modern humans of our current species Homo sapiens were yet to come to the region. It was late Neanderthals living at the Heidenschmiede.”

Stone was used by Neanderthals to make blades, scrapers, and single-edged hand axes, known as Keilmesser, for jobs such as leatherworking, as well as spearheads used for hunting. “It was known that they used various strategies to make such tools,” says Berrin Çep, the study’s primary author.

Statue of a Neanderthal. Photo: Einsamer Schütze - CC BY-SA 4.0
Statue of a Neanderthal. Photo: Einsamer Schütze – CC BY-SA 4.0

She has been attempting to reassemble individual parts in order to have a better understanding of how the inhabitants of the Heidenschmiede operated. “In some cases, we have been able to trace in detail how other basic shapes, such as flakes and blades, were first made from stone cores and then processed into tools,” Çep says. “Reconstructions like this are rarely possible at Neanderthal cave sites in the Swabian Jura because not all of the material from the manufacturing process remains at the site.” In addition, not all findings were typically documented in early digs.”

Early research in the region

“Based on the reconstructions, we were able to prove that the Neanderthals at the Heidenschmiede used a branched manufacturing system in which various techniques known to the makers were applied to one core piece of stone,” Schürch explains, adding that such sophisticated manufacturing processes have only rarely been attested from the Middle Paleolithic.

“This is the first such evidence from the Swabian Jura,” says Jens Axel Frick.

Whoever worked the raw material was able to consider from the outset that parts of the stone could be further worked using a different technique. “This requires strong three-dimensional visualization, creativity, and mentally flexible planning,” says Berrin Çep.

The research team has shown that the early humans who worked the stones from the Heidenschmiede had an excellent working memory overall. The new study results supported other investigations, according to which the Neanderthals possessed great mental flexibility and adaptability, coupled with manual dexterity. At the same time, the varied and elaborate manufacturing processes made visible also provide an explanation as to why a great variability of the assemblages are found in stone artifacts from the Middle Paleolithic.

The University of Tübingen

Related Articles

Archaeologists may have found Lyobaa, the Zapotec Land of the Dead

1 July 2023

1 July 2023

An archaeological team from the Lyobaa project has confirmed the existence of a vast Zapotec underground complex in their study...

The first settlement of the Cimmerians in Anatolia may be Büklükale

7 June 2022

7 June 2022

Archaeologists estimated that the first settlement in Anatolia of the Cimmerians, who left Southern Ukraine before Christ (about 8th century...

Unique Roman Cavalry Parade Helmet Recreated

6 April 2024

6 April 2024

Two replicas have been created of the gilded silver unique Roman cavalry helmet that amateur archaeologists found in 2001 while...

Swiss Scientists Identify Arrowhead Made from a Meteoritic Iron

1 August 2023

1 August 2023

In a recent study of archaeological collections in the Lake Biel region in Switzerland, an arrowhead from the Bronze Age,...

Nearly 300-million-year-old Oldest known fossilized reptile skin found in Oklahoma cave resembles that of modern crocodiles

17 January 2024

17 January 2024

Paleontologists say they’ve identified and described the oldest fossilized reptile skin ever found. A team of paleontologists from the University...

A 2000-year-old Rare Artifact was Found Near Poltava

25 May 2021

25 May 2021

Scarab beetle pendant found near the Ukrainian city of Poltava. During the building of the H-31 motorway in the Poltava...

Scientists discover traces of paint on the Parthenon Sculptures that reveal their true colours

12 October 2023

12 October 2023

Recent research on the Parthenon Sculptures has found traces of the original paint used to decorate the Parthenon Sculptures, revealing...

The 3,200-year-old perfume of Tapputi, the first female chemist in history, came to life again

24 July 2022

24 July 2022

One of the scent formulas written in Akkadian on clay tablets by Tapputi, known as the world’s first female perfumer...

Archaeologists find the largest bronze beast of Sanxingdui ruins

4 September 2022

4 September 2022

The largest and only one of its kind discovered in China to date, the bronze beast was discovered by archaeologists...

Archaeologists find new clues about North Carolina’s ‘Lost Colony’ from the 16th century

11 May 2024

11 May 2024

Archaeologists from The First Colony Foundation have yielded a tantalizing clue about the fate of the Lost Colony, the settlers...

The ancestors of many animal species alive today may have lived in a delta in what is now China, new research suggests

20 April 2022

20 April 2022

The ancestors of many animal species alive today may have lived in a delta in what is now China, new...

Anatolia’s first company was founded 4000 years ago with 15 kilos of gold!

26 May 2024

26 May 2024

A 4,000-year-old tablet found in Kültepe shows that the first company in Anatolia was established by 12 people with 15...

The ancient city of Kastabala will soon have a colonnaded Street

4 September 2021

4 September 2021

The archaeological excavation of the ancient city of Kastabala in Osmaniye Province in southern Turkey continues. Kastabala-Hierapolis is one of...

Research Helps İlluminate the History of the Scythians with 111 Ancient Genomes

27 March 2021

27 March 2021

Due to their interactions and conflicts with the major contemporaries of Eurasia, the Scythians enjoyed legendary status in history and...

A 2,000-year-old ancient “mirror” throws light on aristocratic life in China

17 May 2022

17 May 2022

Archeologists in Beijing have successfully reconstructed a 2,000-year-ago dressing mirror once cherished by the high nobility during the Han Dynasty....