Lissoirs, tools used for the tanning process, can be obtained from animal bones. Neanderthals were able to manufacture such tools. But now we know that they used different tools, based on needs. For this specific process, they chose to utilized bovine ribs. In a study published on May 8th by Nature magazine, we found that Neanderthals were meticulous tanners.
Neanderthals were meticulous tanners
Archaeologists studied 5 almost-identical bone fragments found on two different sited in the South-West of France. All traced back to the Paleolithic era, the fragments appear to be from bovine ribs. Neanderthal apparently used these bones to make lissoirs, which are instruments used to soften and smoothen leather. An interesting finding, because it showcases their choice.
Other mammals were more common during that period, such as deer and reindeers, but our ancestors chose not to work hides with the bones of the aforementioned. They preferred those of bovines, as they are sturdier and heavier.
Tanning with lissoirs
The expert team believes that, 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals had found that the width and thickness of these bones was the right one for lissoirs. The complex research conducted also found that Neanderthals had modified the original structure of the tools.
“Analysis shows that these tools have signs coherent with abrasive pressure on animal hides – explain Nature’s researchers -. The use of these instruments during the process shows a technical and complex system with which animal ribs were used for their specific properties”.
The reaserching team
The archaeological team is led by Naomi L. Martisius, an associate researcher at the Anthropology department of University of California. Frido Welker, Tamara Dogandžić, Mark N. Grote, William Rendu, Virginie Sinet-Mathiot, Arndt Wilcke, Shannon JP McPherron, Marie Soressi and Teresa E. Steele all contributed to the research.
Images from nature.com