By Nell Greenfieldboyce
Tiny bits of twisted plant fibers found on an ancient stone tool suggest that Neanderthals were able to make and use sophisticated cords like string and rope.
Cords made from twisted fibers are so ubiquitous today that it’s easy to take them for granted. But they’re a key survival technology that can be used to make everything from clothes to bags to shelters.
This prehistoric piece of string, described in the journal Scientific Reports, was preserved on a flint tool that dates back to around 41,000 to 52,000 years ago. It came from a cave-like rock shelter in southern France that was once inhabited by Neanderthals.
The discovery adds to growing evidence that our closest extinct human relative wasn’t as dumb as scientists had long assumed.
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