A recent piece in the journal Scientific Reports claims that remnants of twisted fiber found on a flint tool are between 42,000 – 52,000 years old and may have been made by Neanderthals. The tool and string were found in a cave in Southern France that was inhabited by Neanderthals.
NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce writes of the discovery:
The discovery adds to growing evidence that our closest extinct human relative wasn't as dumb as scientists had long assumed.
"They are this sort of ultimate 'other,' this creature that is very similar to us yet somehow is supposed to be too stupid to live," said Bruce Hardy, a paleoanthropologist at Kenyon College in Ohio. He points out that Neanderthals were smart enough to have persisted for hundreds of thousands of years before eventually disappearing around 40,000 years ago.
This is the oldest string found so far by a wide margin. The earliest string recovered before this was "only" 19,000 years old.