by Meghan Gannon, Smithsonianmag.com
Archaeological evidence has upended our image of Neanderthals in the last couple of decades. We’ve learned that these extinct human relatives may have decorated their bodies, buried their dead and even created art. These behaviors make them seem much more like our own species, Homo sapiens than previously believed. And according to a new study in the journal PLOS ONE, we can add another skill to the Neanderthals’ resume: diving for clams.
About 90,000 years ago, Neanderthals living on the Italian Peninsula between what is now Rome and Naples waded offshore into the Mediterranean Sea. Seeking clamshells, they reached their hands underwater, and perhaps even held their breath to swim down to the sandy seafloor. Back on the beach, they broke open the mollusks and maybe enjoyed eating some of the raw meat inside, but they were primarily interested in the shells themselves.
With thin, sharp edges, these shells were essentially natural knives. Instead of spending the better part of a day carving blades from hunks of rock, Neanderthals could find the tools by venturing to the beach. They might have gathered some dead and dried out clams that had washed up on the shore, …..