Researchers reported in August that they had found four examples of the leather-working tool at two sites in southwestern France. Neanderthals fashioned them by grinding pieces of reindeer ribs against rocks, leaving a rounded tip that could be rubbed against a hide to polish it.
Traditional accounts hold that Homo sapiens arrived in Europe about 43,000 years ago, and some archaeologists believe they taught the supposedly dim-witted Neanderthal locals how to use specialized bone tools. These newfound examples suggest different possibilities: Either modern humans and their knowledge arrived in Europe earlier than previously thought, or Neanderthals knew how to modify bones for themselves.
[This article originally appeared in print as "Neanderthals Prove Crafty."]