A hardware store for the Neanderthals

Andreas Pastoors of the Mettmann Neanderthal-Museum in Mettmann with one of the discovered quarzite chips from the "hardware store of the Neanderthals" on Ravensberg mountain near Bonn, Germany.  

Archaeologists in the Rhineland are celebrating a small sensation. On the Ravensberg mountain near Bonn, near the village of Troisdorf, they have discovered a hardware store, or a construction yard, of the Neanderthals: a much visited source, in those times, for finding the raw material of Stone Age tools.

Biface, scrapers, borers and piercer – the Neanderthals did not have a very large tool kit. But it appears that they were very discriminating when it came to chosing stones. Quarzite had proven itself to them to be especially strong and hard-wearing. And quartzite is precisely what was found - and is still to be found – on the Ravensberg mountain in Troisdorf.

Archaeologists of the Mettmann Neanderthal Museum and of the Rhenish agency of curation of soil memorials have been digging there since beginning of August of this year (2015).  "And it was also some kind of factory in which the Neanderthal roughly prepared their raw material before transport," according to Erich Classen from the Rhenish agency.

Using other stones, they cut the quarzite into transportable blocks and brought them to their dwellings, where they would work them over in more detailed fashion, the experts are assuming. On site, they also found a stone age drill. "With it, the Neanderthal would work bones and wood,“, according to Classen. „Yet this drill had not been produced on the spot,“ adds Andreas Pastoors from the Mettmann Neanderthal-Museum. "It must have fallen out of somebody’s pocket.“

Big news for the scientists rests in the fact that the Stone Age people must at one time have stopped to just use the stones which they found in their environment, and started to look deliberately for quality material. "It appears that the hunters and gatherers came here from different settlements in order to quarry this quartzite," says Classen.

The spot had been found in 1912 already, but not excavated, and in the 1960s a road, called the „Mauspfad“ had been built, going from Cologne-Porz to Troisdorf through the forest. It had become immediately clear to the archaeologists that: "the Neanderthals have been working here." So that the spot was secured. "At the time we did not yet have the methods of investigation which we have today,“ Classen explains. "That“s why we have picked up on the investigation again.“

The Neanderthals lived in the Rhineland between 250.000 and 50.000 years before present. This is a large time span, which the archaeologists would not like to narrow down with the help of modern scientific methods.

„With a special luminescence procedure we are able for instance to date the sediments, meaning, the dirt around the stones. This will give information about when the Neanderthals lived here," according to Neanderthal expert Andreas Pastoors. „In principle, we are investigating at what time when the sand has been exposed to the sun for the last time.“ The excavations ae meant to continue until the and of August, at which time the finds will take their way to the laboratory. 

Translated and adapted by Anne-Marie de Grazia from:
Anne Burghard
WDR - Westdeutscher Rundfunk (German TV station)
August 19, 2015


Found in the ground: a raw block of material from which the Neanderthals hewed tools.