It is possible that we as homo sapiens sapiens have borrowed technology from our distant, and now extinct cousin species, the Neanderthal. Archaeologists have discovered the oldest form of a leather sculpting tool, still in use by modern tanners, which is believed to have been sculpted by Neanderthals.

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The lissoirs, or smoothers, were discovered in what is now France. Radiocarbon dating places the tools at a whopping 50,000 years old. This is approximately 10,000 years before it is believed that modern man toured Western Europe. Marie Soressi, archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands states.

“…that if Neanderthals developed the technology to make these tools on their own, it is possible that modern man then later learned the skill from them”.

How a Lissoir Works

The hypothesis is that this group of French Neanderthals developed the technology, and through interaction with the modern human species,

this knowledge was passed down.

Shortly after the arrival of modern man into Western Europe, it is believed that the Neanderthal species died out. However, not before developing much more sophisticated tools and artifacts like; blades, stone tools, and body ornaments, common to modern man at the time.

Does this signify an interaction between the two species

and represent the first known example of cultural transmission?

It could be too early to tell. It is in fact possible that modern man-made their way to Western Europe much sooner than is commonly believed and the lissoirs are then a product of their influence. We also cannot rule out the possibility that both species came to develop similar technology based out of the necessity to turn animal hides into wearable and workable materials. Coincidences do happen sometimes.


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