The Neanderthals were smarter than we thought

Recent research shows that prehistoric people who lived about 400,000 to 40,000 years ago divided in search of shells. This data breaks the stereotype of Neanderthals as brutal creatures without the ability to think.

To date, little evidence has been found that prehistoric people knew how to swim. A team of researchers, who studied shells in the Italian cave Grotto de Moscerini, confirmed that they were shells collected by Neanderthals. They lived near a cave located in the Lazio region, and they made sharp objects from shells.

Paolo Villa, a scientist from the University of Colorado, and his associates analyzed 171 pieces of ancient tools. All are made of smooth shell (Calista Cione). The tool was first found by archaeologists during excavations in 1940, and its origin has been investigated ever since.

The found specimens were opaque, damaged due to contact with gravel and other marine organisms.

Most of the specimens found in the cave are similar to the shells we see on the seashore. However, one quarter had a smooth exterior, with no signs of damage. This indicates that they were collected from the seabed, while the shells were still alive.

Neanderthals dived to survive

Today, these shells are collected by digging the bottom of the Adriatic Sea or divers are looking for them at depths greater than 10 meters. In the north of the Adriatic, a smooth shell can also be found in the coastal area, at depths of about half a meter to one meter.

  • Neanderthals seem to have dived for breath because they did not have the equipment. The shells were collected at a depth of two to four meters, explains Professor Vila.

His colleague from the UCL Institute of Archeology, Matt Pope, also thinks that this is a great discovery.

  • We know that there are storms at sea that can throw shells ashore. It is a material that was brought to the cave from several different locations. Their origin is outside the cave in which they were found, so it is a collection that lasted continuously.

They were not savages

Scientists’ evidence breaks down stereotypes about Neanderthals as violent creatures who spend their days hunting wild animals. They are known to have collected mussels in shallow waters, but no clear evidence of their swimming and diving abilities has been found so far.

  • The latest discovery shows that the Neanderthals used the resources of the sea not only to feed themselves, but also to make tools.

In the past, in studying the development of the human species, the method of gathering resources was used to make a clear distinction between a Neanderthal and a reasonable man. Pope says that this discovery is slowly erasing that border.

  • The document shows that prehistoric people inhabited these parts of the coast only at certain times of the year. They seem to have come to the sea occasionally to equip themselves with the materials to make the tools they used in their daily lives. Maybe these shellfish were their food during the winter, when there would be a period of famine, Pope explains.

Last year, a professor at the University of Washington at St. Luis, Eric Trinkaus, announced that Neanderthals suffered from a disorder called “surfer’s ear”. It is a thickening that develops in the depth of the ear canal, and is characteristic of people who spend a lot of time in the water and in the wind. The theory was challenged by the fact that Neanderthals slept in cold and humid places.

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