Connecting To The Neanderthals
October 2, 2013

Connecting To The Neanderthals

Recently, redOrbit writer April Flowers published an article about bone tools. The article identified that UC Davis researcher Naomi Martisius discovered some bone tools that were previously associated with modern humans. However, these particular bone tools were made about 50,000 years ago, which would mean that they would have been the products of Neanderthals.

Teresa E. Steele, advisor to Martisius, said, ““Previously these types of bone tools have only been associated with modern humans…However, our identification of these pieces in secure Neanderthal contexts leaves open the possibility that we have found, for the first time, evidence that Neanderthals may have influenced the technology of modern humans.”

According to Flowers, “The tools were made about 50,000 years ago by Neanderthals to smooth tough animal hides. Earlier researchers had theorized that such tools were only made by the modern humans that came after Neanderthals. Leatherworkers today still use similar tools to smooth and refine leather into high-end purses and jackets.” The clear connection to leatherworks of the 21st century and the bone tools of the Neanderthals of 50,000 years ago shows just how modern humans have been influenced by the Neanderthals of our distant past.

These particular tools were found in a French archaeological site that had deposits of tools and bones of hunted animals typical to the Neanderthal settlements. To better understand the bone tools Martisius found, she will continue her research whereby she will study them further. “The Neanderthal tools will be examined using sophisticated imaging techniques to compare them with the ones first made by the first modern humans in Europe and the ones Martisius will manufacture at UC Davis. She also plans to look at animal bones from nearby sites to see if she can identify additional pieces made by Neanderthals.”

When I read this article, I could not help but feel excitement. First of all, this shows a direct connection that we did not know about to our past. It is so cool to see how something we use today may have originated. To know that inception happened over 50,000 years ago is simply mind blowing. And to know that the Neanderthals were using something we previously thought only modern humans used shows just how flexible science is.

I am also excited because the discoverer and researchers are female. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professions are desperate for more female participants, so I am thrilled to see the contributions of Naomi Martisius and Teresa Steele. They most definitely stand as good role models for young girls when it comes to science, research, and discovery.

Third, science is just so neat. The way that scientists can connect something so small as a bone tool to the past and present (and perhaps use it for the future) is simply inspiring. The methods and research tools used really are amazing. It’s like magic, only provable. I guess science is modern-day magic.

The findings from Martisius as well as those of the two international teams who provided Martisius with the artifacts can both be found in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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