Neandertal birch tar-hafted tool

Researchers report the discovery of a Neandertal-made tar-backed tool from the present-day North Sea that reveals the use of complex technology by Neandertals and illuminates factors that drove the adoption and maintenance of such technology. Marcel Niekus, Paul Kozowyk, Geeske Langejans, and colleagues describe a Middle Paleolithic flint tool embedded in black residue, found in 2016 at Zandmotor beach in the Netherlands. The tool originates from the same geological unit as a Neandertal skull fragment find and was radiocarbon-dated to approximately 50,000 years old. Chemical analysis identified the black residue as birch bark tar, and the quantity of tar in this and other Middle Paleolithic adhesive finds suggests a considerable investment of resources. Microstructure analysis of the contaminant patterns and the reconstructed production temperatures of 350-400 °C are consistent with a complex, high-yield production method. Neandertals maintained such technology while living in small, highly mobile social groups. The find location is at the northern edge of Neandertals’ distribution, where cold conditions would have led to high ecological risk. According to the authors, the results suggest the routine production of large amounts of tar by Neandertals, likely with some degree of task specialization, and that ecological risk drove the development of complex technology.

Article #19-07828: “Middle Paleolithic complex technology and a Neandertal tar-backed tool from the Dutch North Sea,” by Marcel J. L. Th. Niekus et al.

MEDIA CONTACT: Marcel J. L. Th. Niekus, Foundation for Stone Age Research in the Netherlands, Groningen, NETHERLANDS; tel: +31-50-3119199, +31-06-38513675; e-mail: <

>; Paul R. B. Kozowyk, Leiden University, NETHERLANDS; e-mail:

; Geeske H. J. Langejans, Delft University of Technology, NETHERLANDS; tel: +31-15-52787739, +31-06-47285123; e-mail:


This part of information is sourced from

Marcel J. L. Th. Niekus

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