At Qesem Collapse Israel, Neanderthals or early Homo sapiens seem to have saved marrow-rich deer bones for a number of weeks, counting on the bones and their outer layer of dried pores and skin and flesh to maintain the marrow comparatively recent—like storing leftovers in Pleistocene Tupperware.
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Based mostly on the minimize marks on the bones, individuals extracted the marrow after a couple of weeks, after the bones and their protecting of pores and skin and tendons had time to dry out. That means the individuals who lived at Qesem have been planning forward for his or her future wants—which is yet one more piece of proof that Neanderthals and the earliest members of our personal species have been smarter than we’ve usually given them credit score for.
Stone Age Tupperware
Individuals of varied teams have lived at Qesem Cave on and off for lots of of hundreds of years. Archaeologists haven’t discovered hominin fossils on the website to date, however within the oldest layers of artifacts, they’ve unearthed oval and pear-shaped hand axes within the Acheulian type—a stone calling card of Homo erectus or their descendants, Homo heidelbergensis. In layers relationship from 300,000 to 200,000 years outdated, the stone blades and scrapers belong to a set of stone device cultures known as the Acheulo-Yabrudian, which has turned up at Neanderthal and early Homo sapiens websites.
Deer bones from these layers—particularly the metapodials (the lengthy bones of the ft), that are wealthy in bone marrow—confirmed the telltale indicators of individuals cracking them open to get on the marrow inside. A lot of the metapodials at Qesem have been damaged into fragments, and lots of have been pitted and flaked as in the event that they’d been hit with a hammerstone. Many additionally bore minimize marks, in all probability from when historic individuals minimize away the pores and skin and tendons to get to the bone beneath.
To raised perceive precisely what Pleistocene individuals at Qesem have been doing with the deer bones, Tel Aviv College archaeologist Ruth Blasco and her colleagues tried a bit Stone Age meat processing of their very own. They gathered up a set of fallow deer metapodials and saved them for a couple of weeks in situations much like these at Qesem. Each week, the archaeologists skinned and cracked open a couple of of the bones.
At first, they solely wanted to make a few fast cuts to sever the tendons from the ends of the bone, after which they may peel away pores and skin and tendon fairly simply. However because the pores and skin and tendons dried, they turned a lot tougher to take away. After the second week, slicing away the delicate tissue required making a number of extra cuts alongside the size of the bone—often whereas holding the blade nearly flat in opposition to the bone—and sometimes even sawing on the tendon. The marks left behind on the bone seemed seemed quite a bit just like the marks on lots of the Qesem bones.