The first known multipurpose tools were crafted 170,000 years ago by Neanderthals, who exploited fire during the manufacturing process.
The Stone Age workers apparently charred branches of hard, heavy boxwood to make it easier to strip the bark. The resulting sticks have rounded handles and resemble the implements that present-day hunter gatherers use to dig up roots and hunt burrowing animals, says a team led by Biancamaria Aranguren of Italy’s cultural heritage ministry in Florence.
The sticks were excavated in central Italy and date to a time when Neanderthals were the predominant — if not the only — ancient hominins in Europe. Animal bones found next to the sticks were unburnt, ruling out wildfires as the cause of the charring.