(ORDO NEWS) — One type of ancient glue is believed to have been used from the Middle Paleolithic to the Iron Age.
Scientists recently discovered that birch bark tar has been used as an ancient adhesive for at least 50,000 years, from the Paleolithic to the time of the Gauls, according to a new study.
According to a study published in the journal Antiquity, birch bark tar was constantly used in the territory of modern Europe from the Middle Paleolithic to the Iron Age.
Made from heated birch bark, this material is believed to have served as a glue for manipulating tools and decorating objects.
Clearly, glue was as important in ancient times as it is today.
Scholars mistakenly believed that this type of glue was abandoned in Western Europe at the end of the Iron Age (800-25 BC) and replaced by pine resins, around which a full-fledged industry developed during the Roman period.
However, by studying artifacts dating back to the first six centuries using chemical archaeological evidence and other forms of research, French scientists found that birch tar was used at least until late antiquity.
“Reviewed in relation to textual and environmental evidence, these findings illuminate the transfer of technical knowledge and the development of long-range trading networks associated with birch bark tar,” the researchers write in the new study.
The artifacts on which the study is based were found in a region where birch is in short supply. In this regard, questions arose about how it was mined.
Chemical, archaeological and textual analysis has shown that birch tar was used until late antiquity, if not longer, proving that the world’s oldest adhesive is at least 50,000 years old.
However, archaeological evidence suggests that Neanderthals could produce tar by dry distillation of birch bark as early as 200,000 years ago.
What’s more, a 2019 study showed that birch tar production can be a very simple process, requiring only birch bark to be burned near smooth vertical surfaces in open air conditions.
A rare find from the Dutch North Sea demonstrates that among Neanderthals, birch bark tar could serve as a substrate for small “household” stone tools.
According to experts, birch tar was also used in antiquity as a disinfectant, in leather dressing, and also in medicine.
Despite the possible harm to human health, archaeological evidence suggests that 5,000-year-old birch tar chewing gum was produced in Kirikki in Finland.
In addition, archaeologists have discovered that some ends of the plumage of arrows were fastened with birch tar, and birch-tar-tin gaskets were used in antiquity to fix the blades of axes in the Mesolithic era.
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