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No brutes: New bone find suggests Neanderthals were more advanced than previously thought

Researchers have found what they say are specialized bone tools made by Neanderthals in Europe thousands of years before modern humans are thought to have arrived to share such skills, a discovery that suggests modern man's cousins were more advanced than previously believed.

In a paper published online Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers discuss their discovery in France of four fragments of bone they say were used to make animal hides tougher and more water-resistant. The oldest tool appears to be 51,000 years old.

The discovery could provide the first evidence that Neanderthals independently made specialized bone tools, rather than learning the technique from modern humans.

If Neanderthals did learn the technology, then the find would suggest modern humans entered Europe earlier than thought.