Ancients held things together with glue

December 24, 1997|By DALLAS MORNING NEWS

This year's big archaeological discovery: Long before Elmer's cornered the market, neolithic humans were making glue -- at least 8,000 years ago.

Archaeologists have discovered a cache of glue in an Israeli cave near the Dead Sea known as Nahal Hemar. It wasn't exactly Super Glue, but it was strong enough to keep a stone ax from flying into pieces.

The glue was made from collagen, a fibrous protein found in skin, bone, sinews and cartilage. Archaeologists found it lining baskets, decorating skulls and holding Stone Age tools together. A black substance, it was first thought to be asphalt, but chemical analysis by Arie Nissenbaum of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, identified it as collagen glue.

The cave's residents apparently knew how to make glue some 4,000 years before ancient Egyptians are believed to have figured out how to use collagen in carpenter's glue to hold wooden furniture together.

Pub Date: 12/24/97

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