Sometime between 41,000–52,000 years ago an innovative person took some fibers, twisted them together, and put them with a thin stone tool. Their creation may have been a handle, net, or bag for the tool. This is the oldest known direct evidence of someone using fibers to create string. You may be surprised to know that the prehistoric craftsperson wasn’t a modern human – it was a Neanderthal living in the area of what is now France. So here we have more evidence for Neanderthal intelligence.
Study author Professor Bruce Hardy told Ancient Origins how it felt making the discovery:
Based on single twisted fibers that we had seen on tools from the site in the past, we suspected that Neanderthals were making string and rope. As soon as I saw this fragment, I knew that we had the smoking gun. I also knew that this would be a huge step in our understanding of Neanderthals and helped demonstrate that they were not so different from us. It was definitely a fist-pump kind of moment.
Finding the Fibers
Perishable materials are generally the most common but hardest to find in the archaeological record. When we’re talking about the European Middle Paleolithic period (30,000–300,000 years ago), archaeologists generally expect they’re going to be able to find durable bone and stone artifacts, not a six-millimeter-long cord fragment that consists of three bundles of fibers twisted together into prehistoric yarn.