Neanderthals were distilling tar 200 thousand years ago in Europe. These early humans were using tar to make tools long before Homo sapiens did.—Annalee Newitz, Ars Technica
Despite many recent discoveries that show Neanderthals were technologically and socially sophisticated, there’s still a popular idea that these heavy-browed, pale-skinned early humans were mentally inferior to modern Homo sapiens. Now we have even more corroboration that they were pretty sharp. A fascinating new study reveals that Neanderthals were distilling tar for tool-making 200 thousand years ago—long before evidence of tar-making among Homo sapiens. And an experimental anthropologist has some good hypotheses for how they did it, too.