For many years scientists believed that tar bark manufacturing process was a benchmark for complexity level of thinking in Neanderthals. But, a recent research paper has proved this theory wrong. The research paper suggested a simple and novel yet forgotten manufacturing process.
Neanderthals, an extinct species of archaic humans, used a type of tar bark manufactured from birch. This complex tool-making procedure was regarded as a high-level cognitive thinking and cultural development among these early archaic humans. Scientists and researchers had long believed that birch bark has to be heated in the absence of air to obtain the adhesive. At the University of Tübingen, an international team led by researchers from the university itself carried out a research study to find methods of making bark tar. This team included faculties from NYU Tandon School of Engineering & NYU’s Department of Anthropology. They concluded their study after finding a simple technique for manufacturing bark tar made from birch bark. The paper was then published in August 2019 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). According to the co-author, Radu Lovita paleolithic and paleoanthropologist archeologist at the NYU’s Department of Anthropology, the paper challenges the belief that occurrence of the adhesive material (birch tar) in the Neanderthal excavation sites means the archaic humans had high level of cognitive abilities.
Previously, researchers had experimented with clay structures, pits, ceramic or metal vessels and ash clays as medium for heating the birch bark in the absence of air. As an alternative, this research team common resources available during the Neanderthal era. Dead or freshly cut birch bark and incinerated it near some flat river stones. After 180 minutes, a sufficient amount of black sticky adhesive was obtained. This sticky material was easily scraped off using basic equipment such as stones. The molecular properties of this material resembled to that of the samples collected from Neanderthal archeological sites. Moreover, it had stronger adhesive properties than those glues that were made by complex manufacturing processes.