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Discovery of Prehistoric String Upends Understanding of Neanderthal Intelligence

The supposed cavemen had knowledge of fiber technology.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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Cavemen's knowledge of fiber technology suggests they were far from dumb. Archaeologists have just discovered the oldest known string in the world, dating back to 50,000 years ago in prehistoric France. At the time, ancient hominids roamed the land, and were traditionally thought to possess sub-human intelligence, until now.

The discovery of the prehistoric string is crucial because it suggests the ancient hominids were capable of understanding numbers, logic, and sequences, which are cognitive skills required in creating a string. The string implies Neanderthals also knew which trees produced fibers that could be made into strings or cords. The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Why Fiber Technology Presupposes High Level of Intelligence

The 50,000-year-old string was found underneath a stone tool, deposited in the Rhone River valley of southeastern France. Initially, the string looked like white tissue glued onto the stone tool. When scientists examined it under a microscope, they realized it was actually a string spun from the bark of a tree. There is no doubt that it was man-made.

According to the study, Neanderthals could have made a variety of accessories from the string—bags, mats, nets, and fabric.

“The cord, as well as fiber technology in general, is an example of an infinite use of finite means,” said Bruce Hardy of Kenyon College in Ohio, lead author of the study.

“Strings and rope can be used in many ways: Tying tools onto a haft, snares, bags, nets, et cetera. Fiber technology in general is foundational in our societyfrom strings and ropes to tie things together, clothing, and even twisted wires used as cables in construction of modern buildings.”

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Why People Think Neanderthals are Unintelligent

Hardy also explained why people have a notion that Neanderthals were not intelligent.

“Neanderthals are a group that are typically defined by their extinction,” says Hardy.

“Because we don’t see Neanderthals walking down the street with us, we assume that they must have done something wrong. Therefore, we tend to look for deficiencies rather than strengths.

“This evidence suggests that they are not terribly different from us in the way they thought and navigated the world.”

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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