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(8,170 posts)
Wed Nov 20, 2013, 09:21 AM Nov 2013

String actuality - strong evidence for Neanderthals making string

Last edited Wed Nov 20, 2013, 01:06 PM - Edit history (2)

Hot on the heels on reports of Heidelberg man possibly making spears ( Thanks to HarveyDarkey ), a new dig has shown strong evidence of string made 90,000 years ago in Europe.

From New Scientist
Perishable materials usually rot away, so the oldest string on record only dates back 30,000 years. But perforations in small stone and tooth artefacts (sic) from Neanderthal sites in France suggest the pieces were threaded on string and worn as pendants. "The wear patterns provide circumstantial evidence of early use of string, but the evidence is not definitive," says Bruce Hardy at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. Similar circumstantial evidence has been found in perforated shells.

Now, Hardy and his colleagues have found slender, 0.7-millimetre-long plant fibres that are twisted together near some stone artefacts at a site in south-east France that was occupied by Neanderthals 90,000 years ago. Such fibres are not twisted together in nature, says the team, suggesting that the Neanderthals were responsible (Quaternary Science Reviews, doi.org/pzx).

Another post about this has details of experiments by the team:
From Past Horizons
As these fibres are not twisted in their natural state experiments were carried out involving incising, planing, whittling, scraping and boring. In all cases, no twisted fibres resulted.

Further experiments conducted by Bruce Hardy involved the scraping, cutting and slicing of a variety of non-woody plants (roots, tubers, reeds, etc.), and again these also produced no twisted fibres such as those observed.

While not definitive, the lack of twisted fibres in these experiments lends some credence to the hypothesis that these derive from cordage.

“If they are indeed remnants of string or cordage, then they would be the earliest direct evidence of string,” says Hardy. “Albeit very fragmentary evidence.”

Although the details I have seen are not (or cannot be) specific, I would not be surprised if this was twisted bast fibre. Detail on making it in this Internet Archaeology article just beneath the photos
"She strips the bark off the saplings she collects and peels the cambium fibre...away from the outer bark or shongol (lit. skin) which she discards. She allows the bark to dry first before stripping off its fibre, slitting the wands gathered lengthwise in two and placing them indoors over a fire, leaving them for about a week. But the fibre of ponjip figs, she may strip off green and dry separately; women often excoriate these saplings during collection, returning home with bags of unseparated bark..., and there peeling off and drying the bast. On average, 5g of dry phloem fibre will produce 10 metres of string. Sillitoe 1988 pg 245


added Link to the more extensive discussion of the spears started by Ichingcarpenter Sorry, I didn't check further.
3 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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String actuality - strong evidence for Neanderthals making string (Original Post) intaglio Nov 2013 OP
Over and over again we underestimate the ingenuity of our human and non-human predecessors n/t Victor_c3 Nov 2013 #1
'While not definitive, the lack of twisted fibres' Ichingcarpenter Nov 2013 #2
Fair comment intaglio Nov 2013 #3


(36,988 posts)
2. 'While not definitive, the lack of twisted fibres'
Wed Nov 20, 2013, 11:59 AM
Nov 2013

Says a lot to me and it sounds like conjecture, why not use sinew to produce cordage?

I find this hypothesis lacking in data
and sophistication of what is known about our cousin.
If they had string that would mean a technological breakthrough in other uses just not adornment.

Interesting OP and worthy of discussion,

BTW check my threads in science this one among others there
for a deeper discussion which I posted way before the GD one.


I try to support this forum but it doesn't get enough hits for exposure to the masses so I go with science too.

I will continue to post here


(8,170 posts)
3. Fair comment
Wed Nov 20, 2013, 01:33 PM
Nov 2013

but adding a qualifying phrase to your title such as ' " ... the lack of twisted fibres" produced accidentally by other methods' might have been better.

As to why string rather than sinew? Sinew has many problems, examples include making long runs without knots and the greater vulnerability of sinew to both extremes of humidity.

Link to your thread added.

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