Ochre-based compound adhesives at the Mousterian type-site document complex cognition and high investment

Patrick Schmidt, Radu Iovita, Armelle Charrié-Duhaut, Gunther Möller, Abay Namen, Ewa Dutkiewicz

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Ancient adhesives used in multicomponent tools may be among our best material evidences of cultural evolution and cognitive processes in early humans. African Homo sapiens is known to have made compound adhesives from naturally sticky substances and ochre, a technical behavior proposed to mark the advent of elaborate cognitive processes in our species. Foragers of the European Middle Paleolithic also used glues, but evidence of ochre-based compound adhesives is unknown. Here, we present evidence of this kind. Bitumen was mixed with high loads of goethite ochre to make compound adhesives at the type-site of the Mousterian, Le Moustier (France). Ochre loads were so high that they lowered the adhesive’s performance in classical hafting situations where stone implements are glued to handles. However, when used as handheld grips on cutting or scraping tools, a behavior known from Neanderthals, high-ochre adhesives present a real benefit, improving their solidity and rigidity. Our findings help understand the implications of Pleistocene adhesive making.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numbereadl0822
    JournalScience Advances
    Issue number8
    StatePublished - Feb 2024

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General


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