01 March 2013

Paleolithic screw waterskin stoppers

These are the most delightful tools I have ever seen. They are from the Perigordian IV, which is 30 000 BP to 28 000 BP.  They are called 'goat skin corks' which have a hand cut screw thread!

I was staggered when I saw them, I was looking for something else, and came across them by chance. You don't expect to find a screw thread in the Palaeolithic! ..

They are from two different sites, but the same time period. My bet is that both were made at one site, and traded to another. No two people come up with an intellectual leap like that independently, at the same time. It had to have been made by the same artisan or group of artisans, for sure. What is interesting, however, is that this was invented, but never became popular except in one general area at one time, about 30 000 years ago...

The one on the left is from Roc de Combe-Capelle, and on the right from Fourneau du Diable. They are both in the Dordogne area, about 90 kilometres apart.

Notice that they are both right hand threads, showing that right handedness in humans has been around for a long time - though we knew that anyway because of the differences in arms on the right and the left of skeletons...

The material of both is ivory. Hard to work, but it would be very durable...
Text and image from Don's Maps, via For what they were, we are and Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.  At the first via and at Noticias de Prehistoria, there's a photograph of another stopper, made of bone, where the threads are less perfect that those in the hand-drawing above, making me wonder if they were idealized somewhat by the artist.


  1. Now where are the paleolithic corkscrews?

  2. That is incredible. There are many supposedly new inventions that have been around much longer than most people think. Fully operating batteries several thousand years B.C., Palaeolithic screws, incredibly accurate tools for measuring the earth and positions of planets....us humans weren't Neanderthal cave men huddling in animal skins as is the stereotype today. We have been creating mind-blowing architecture, complex written languages, and advanced technology for hundreds of thousands of years.

    1. Batteries thousands of years ago? Written languages hundreds of thousands of years ago? Where are you getting this? Writing dates back only about 6,000 years and batteries only a century or so.

    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baghdad_Battery

  3. Presumably ivory would be easier to work than bone for that kind of thing, so maybe not very idealised. Mammoth tusk, presumably. Pretty cool.

  4. I wouldn't have said it was impossible for an "intellectual leap" to be made at the same time by two different people in different places. For example: Newton and Liebniz re calculus; Darwin and Wallace, etc.

  5. We should give our ancestors more credit.

  6. I have to disagree about the two people making the same jump thing. There are more examples of it in history than you'd think.

    I'd give examples, but that would require being awake long enough to do so. *laugh*


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