Podcast S7 E3 | 35 min

Untangling the World’s First-Known String

15 May 2024
Neanderthals made the oldest string ever found, providing new insights into the technology and culture of our hominin cousins.

At the Abri du Maras site in southern France, archaeologists recovered twisted plant fibers dating back 50,000 years, suggesting Neanderthals had knowledge of plant materials and the seasonal cycles necessary for making durable string. This finding challenges a view of Neanderthals as simplistic and inferior to modern humans, highlighting their sophisticated use of technology and deep environmental knowledge.

In this episode, Bruce Hardy discusses with host Eshe Lewis the oldest piece of string on record and how it reshapes our understanding of Neanderthals.This story not only delves into the technical aspects of making ancient string but also underscores the broader implications for appreciating Neanderthal ingenuity.

Bruce Hardy is a paleoanthropologist and archaeologist specializing in Neanderthals. His research focuses on understanding stone tool use through microscopic residue analysis. He is a professor of anthropology at Kenyon College in Ohio, where he teaches his students Neanderthal skills. In 2020, he and his colleagues published evidence of the oldest-known surviving string, circa 50,000 years old, from the Neanderthal site of Abri du Maras in France. He also teaches on science and pseudoscience.

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SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is produced by House of Pod. The executive producers were Cat Jaffee and Chip Colwell. This season’s host was Eshe Lewis, who is the director of the SAPIENS Public Scholars Training Fellowship program. Dennis Funk was the audio editor and sound designer. Christine Weeber was the copy editor.

SAPIENS is an editorially independent magazine of the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the University of Chicago Press. SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library.

This episode is part of the SAPIENS Public Scholars Training Fellowship program, which provides in-depth training for anthropologists in the craft of science communication and public scholarship, funded with the support of a three-year grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

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