March 1, 2012

Hafting with bitumen in Neanderthal Romania

Julien Riel-Salvatore mentions today in his blog that another instance of Neanderthal hafting has been discovered, this time in Romania (Râşnov Cave), dated to 33.3-28.9 Ka. BP (uncalibrated) and with Mousterian technology (generally associated with Neanderthals).

A previous case was known to exist in Palestine (Umm el Tlel, c. 40-70 Ka BP). Findings of birch pitch tar, also used for hafting, are even older: 125 Ka in Germany and maybe even older in Italy, evidencing the use of different technical solutions for the same problem.

I refer to A Very Remote Period Indeed for the papers and further details. 

Reconstructed Mousterian spear (source)


  1. You're more than welcome, Julien. I can't cite you and not link to you, can I?

    And I had to cite you in this one because I have some stubborn commenters who, in the recent past, have questioned that Neanderthals could even haft their tools/weapons. I find the most striking attitudes of disbelief on the capacities of ancient people but even more if those were Neanderthals.

    So I feel it's important to emphasize that they were perfectly able to do all or almost all we can do nowadays.

  2. For some reason people think (or thought) that hafting of weapons was too advanced for Neanderthals. This is yet another supposedly modern behavior we can attribute to Neanderthal, which narrows the difference between them and early moderns. Physiological differences aside, it is in my opinion, a bad idea to think that ancient man couldn't do something just because they lived a long time ago.

  3. Well, I think we safely discard anything involving engines, transoceanic navigation and probably methodical record keeping (such as knowing about the precession of the equinoxes). Other than that... I'm open minded.

  4. Yeah, and we should probably rule out space travel as well, lol.

    I have noticed that sometimes (not by you) there is a tendency to assume that ancient man was some how less intelligent or creative than modern man because they were not as technologically advanced. This tendency is more marked with respect to the Neanderthal.

  5. Well, the category "engines" include space travel, unless you're going wildly into science fiction. A rocket is still an engine, right?

    Otherwise totally in agreement: actual technological difference is too often mistakenly interpreted as intelligence difference, not just with past people but also with present people (racist ideologies abound in that idea).

    All nonsense and prejudice. :/


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