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10 October 2011
One of the oldest handles in the history of archaeology

A team from IPHES (the Catalan 'Institute of Human Palaeo-ecology and Social Evolution', in northeast Spain) found the imprint of the oldest wooden handle on record in the history of archaeology. The artefact was found in the Abric Romani site, in Capellades (Barcelona). It is the only object with this shape discovered during more than one hundred years of archaeological studies on this site.
     Part of the artefact is the handle and the rest is triangular/oval in shape. Its use or function is unknown, as nothing like it had ever been found before in the records of late Pleistocene, but its form suggests a tool for tending fires. It was made out of coniferous wood, is partially carbonised, and has been preserved by travertine - a type of stone characterising the site. It is 32 centimetres long and 8 centimetres wide.
     The level at which this fossil is found is over 55,000 years old, and belongs to the late Pleistocene era. The context in which it appeared indicates that Neanderthal hunter-gatherers occupied this area. A series of houses was found with remains of deer, horses and cattle. Adjacent to these is an important industry based on flint-knapping, and another type of wood that was used for fuel, as well as other objects such as those found on higher levels which could have been used as trays.

Edited from IPHES (October 2011)

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