Science & Technology

Neandertals Dove Underwater to Collect Clam Shells to Use as Tools

Basic morphology of retouched shell instruments, Figs C-L are from the Pigorini Museum. Credit score: Villa et al., 2020

Neandertals collected clam shells and volcanic rock from the seashore and coastal waters of Italy in the course of the Center Paleolithic, in accordance to a examine revealed within the open-access journal PLOS ONE in January, by Paola Villa of the College of Colorado and colleagues.

Neandertals are recognized to have used instruments, however the extent to which they have been ready to exploit coastal assets has been questioned. On this examine, Villa and colleagues explored artifacts from the Neandertal archaeological cave website of Grotta dei Moscerini in Italy, considered one of two Neandertal websites within the nation with an abundance of hand-modified clam shells, courting again to round 100,000 years in the past.

The authors examined 171 modified shells, most of which had be retouched to be used as scrapers. All of those shells belonged to the Mediterranean clean clam species Callista chione. Primarily based on the state of preservation of the shells, together with shell harm and encrustation on the shells by marine organisms, the authors inferred that just about 1 / 4 of the shells had been collected underwater from the ocean flooring, as reside animals, as opposed to being washed up on the seashore. In the identical cave sediments, the authors additionally discovered considerable pumice stones doubtless used as abrading instruments, which apparently drifted by way of sea currents from erupting volcanoes within the Gulf of Naples (70km south) onto the Moscerini seashore, the place they have been collected by Neandertals.

These findings be part of a rising checklist of proof that Neandertals in Western Europe have been within the observe of wading or diving into coastal waters to acquire assets lengthy earlier than Homo sapiens introduced these habits to the area. The authors additionally notice that shell instruments have been considerable in sediment layers that had few stone instruments, suggesting Neandertals may need turned to making shell instruments throughout occasions the place extra typical stone supplies have been scarce (although it’s additionally attainable that clam shells have been used as a result of they’ve a skinny and sharp innovative, which might be maintained by way of re-sharpening, in contrast to flint instruments).

The authors add: “The cave opens on a seashore. It has a big assemblage of 171 instruments made on shells collected on the seashore or gathered straight from the ocean flooring as reside animals by pores and skin diving Neandertals. Pores and skin diving for shells or recent water fishing in low waters was a standard exercise of Neandertals, in accordance to information from different websites and from an anatomical examine revealed by E. Trinkaus. Neandertals additionally collected pumices erupted from volcanoes within the gulf of Naples and transported by sea to the seashore.”

Reference: “Neandertals on the seashore: Use of marine assets at Grotta dei Moscerini (Latium, Italy)” by Paola Villa, Sylvain Soriano, Luca Pollarolo, Carlo Smriglio, Mario Gaeta, Massimo D’Orazio, Jacopo Conforti and Carlo Tozzi, 15 January 2020, PLOS ONE.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0226690


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