Ancient bone tools found in Moroccan cave were used to work leather and fur – sciencedaily

When researchers began examining animal bones in the Smugglers Cave in Morocco, they wanted to learn more about the diet and environment of the earliest human ancestors who lived there between 120,000 and 90,000 ago. years. But they soon realized that the bones they found were not just food scraps. As reported in the journal iScience by September 16, they had been fashioned into tools, apparently for use in leather and fur work.

“These bone tools have shaping and use marks that indicate they were used to scrape hides to make leather and to scrape hides to make fur,” explains Emily Hallett of the group. Pan-African Evolution “Lise Meitner” research at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany. “At the same time, I found a pattern of cut marks on the bones of carnivores in the Smugglers Cave which suggested that humans did not process carnivores for meat but rather skin them for their fur.”

Clothing made of fur and skins probably played an important role in the ability of the first humans to move around the colder parts of the world during the Pleistocene. “Genetic studies of clothing lice by other researchers have suggested that clothing originated in modern humans at least 170,000 years ago in Africa,” says Hallett. But not much is known about the tradition of the garment and how it is made, as fur and other organic materials are generally not preserved in archaeological records, especially in deposits 100,000 years or more old. The new findings provide “very suggestive indirect evidence of the earliest garments in the archaeological record,” the authors write.

Researchers, including the late Harold Dibble, an influential archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania, identified a total of 62 bone tools from the Smugglers Cave. The bones have been carved in various ways to create regular shapes. They have also been polished and smoothed. Beside the bone tools were the remains of sand foxes, golden jackals, and feral cats, all with markings consistent with the idea that people had peeled their skins for fur using techniques still in use today. hui. The remains of other types of animals related to modern cattle found in the cave show different markings, suggesting that they were instead processed for meat.

Additionally, the researchers found a cetacean tooth tip, which they say carries what is likely a combination of human and non-human modifications. This makes it the first documented use of a marine mammal tooth by humans and the only verified marine mammal of this age. from North Africa.

Overall, the evidence from the Smugglers’ Cave points to the Pan-African emergence of a complex culture, including the use of multiple and diverse materials for making specialized tools. “Our results show that early humans made bone tools that were used to prepare hides and furs, and that this behavior is likely part of a larger tradition with earlier examples that have yet to be found.” , explains Hallett.

Hallett says she is curious to see if other archaeologists will find comparable carnivore skinning models in other bone assemblages. She also wants to make and experimentally use bone tools in a controlled environment to understand the time and labor investment required to make and maintain these early bone tools.

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation, the University of Salamanca, the Institute of Human Origins, a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, the Australian Research Council, the Leakey Foundation, the National Geographic Society, and the University Research Foundation at the University of Pennsylvania. Harold Dibble passed away on June 10, 2018 and is missing from his team.

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