Archaeologists have discovered a ‘workshop’ containing nearly 17,000 flint knives and other objects created 60,000 years ago by Neanderthals.
The startling discovery was made in the village Pietraszno in Silesian Voivodeship, in southern Poland.
Researchers believe Neanderthals travelling in groups from the south used the caves in the area to stop during their migration and they created the flint tools, mainly used to tear the flesh from animal carcasses.
However, the majority of the tools in Pietraszno were found outside the caves and it is believed to be the largest discovery of what is described in local media as a “workshop” for Neanderthal tools outside of a cave in Central Europe.
Andrzej Wisniewski from the Institute of Archaeology, University of Wroclaw Central European News (CEN): “At the bank of the Pietraszynie River, we discovered an unprecedented number of flint products – 17,000 – abandoned some 60,000 years ago by Neanderthals.
“Them choosing this place was dictated by the possibility of getting food and the necessary tools. I mean the Pleistocene (Ice Age) fauna, i.e. around 60,000 years ago.”
He added: “The area of the Glubczyce Plateau, within which our position was located, is north of the Moravian Gate – one of the largest corridors in this part of Europe, which animals and people from the south used to move to the north and vice versa in the Ice Age. This explains the general appearance of Neanderthal traces associated with the acquisition of food and rock materials, as they periodically moved from the south.
“Based on microscopic examination, we can conclude that the discovered tools were used as knives to divide carcasses.”
The discovery goes against the researchers’ previous hypothesis that such large accumulations of flint tools in one place only began to appear 40,000 years ago.
Archaeologists were able to point out the places where certain types of tools were made as during the excavations they found flint debris caused by the creation of tools such as knives.
The researchers believe some groups of Neanderthals stopped for longer periods in the caves whilst others passed briefly through the corridor. Wisniewski said those Neanderthals in the caves used the area as a “production site” for “hunting purposes”.
For the first time in this part of Europe scientists have been able to reconstruct the whole process of preparing the tools from the first impact on a block of flint to a ready-to-use item. Archaeologists were also able to say which tools were used and which were not.
Wisniewski told CEN: “Neanderthals created very few types of tools at this point, which indicates that these activities were socially agreed and applied to higher goals.”
Thanks to the detailed analysis of the technique used to make the tools, specialists have found that they were created by several people.
Wisniewski adds: “The discoveries from Pietraszyn confirm that the everyday life of Neanderthals was far from a long-standing model. More and more data confirms the strong similarities in various spheres of activity to behaviours only ascribed so far to anatomically contemporary people.”
Members of the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Wroclaw have been working at the site since last year with researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Anthropology in Leipzig in a National Science Centre project.