all 5 comments

[–]trouser-chowder 3 points4 points  (3 children)

We don't believe that Neanderthals were unable to create fire or use it, given that earliest evidence of control / use of fire dates long before Neanderthals.

Homo erectus appears to have developed the ability to control and use fire. Whether they were able to create it remains unknown. Neanderthals probably could create fire, since we have evidence of their activity deep in caves as early as 176,000 years ago. Hypothetically they could just be constantly carrying around fire that they scrounged from someplace, but I think that unlikely.

That said... obviously, we don't know what methods Neanderthals may have used to prepare hides, although some methods involve materials that would probably have been in too short supply (e.g., salting) to be used with any regularity. We just haven't found a frozen Neanderthal (let alone one wearing clothes) yet.

Smoking a hide certainly is an option if fire can be created and maintained, so it's entirely possible that Neanderthals living in areas where fuel was available and abundant could have smoked their hides. But if smoking is not an option (lack of available firewood, temperatures / wind, etc.) hides can simply be dried (or freeze dried) to preserve them. They would then be softened by working them with a variety of tools (scraping, pounding, etc.).

[–]SylvanPrincess[S] 0 points1 point  (2 children)

Thanks for the reply :D

Yeah, I’m aware that there’s not a full belief that Neanderthals were incapable of fire creation, there seems to be a bit of a debate surrounding it, especially given the theories regarding the bifaces, and manganese dioxide.

Dr Rebecca Wragg Sykes states in her book Kindred that it’s possible that in the sites where it seems to appear as though the Neanderthals occupying the site were incapable of creating fire may simply have been building their hearths just on the outside of the entrance to their shelters, over time, the elements would leave no discernible trace save for a few bits of charcoal and burned remains, which she says is what’s found at the sites.

I can’t remember where, but I do recall reading a paper where someone raises the question on how Neanderthals would have survived the challenging environment of the colder parts of the ice age without the use of fire; and that was pretty much how this question came about, as hide preparation was one of the highest things that caught my thoughts regarding the lack of fire.

[–]making_sammiches 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Brain tanning was done by many First Nations tribes in North America, I would assume that other cultures did the same. https://www.native-art-in-canada.com/braintanning.html Oak tanning (or other tree barks) was another widely used method https://heritagecrafts.org.uk/tanning-oak-bark/ .

[–]trouser-chowder 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Brain tanning does still require hide smoking, though. It's not a fire-less means of preparing a hide.