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Tools with handles even more ancient

New finds move back the origins of Stone Age tools that were attached to handles with adhesive material

In a gripping instance of Stone Age survival, Neandertals used a tarlike substance to fasten sharpened stones to handles as early as 70,000 years ago, a new study suggests.

Stone points and sharpened flakes unearthed in Syria since 2000 contain the residue of bitumen — a natural, adhesive substance — on spots where the implements would have been secured to handles of some type, according to a team led by archaeologist Eric Boëda of University of Paris X, Nanterre. The process of attaching a tool to a handle is known as hafting. The Neandertals likely found the bitumen in nearby tar sands, the team reports.

Stone tools of the type found at the Syrian site are typically attributed to Neandertals. These evolutionary cousins of modern humans frequently used bitumen and other tars as an adhesive for hafting and perhaps sometimes as a sleeve to protect a tool user’s hand, the researchers propose in the December Antiquity.

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