Stone hand axe photo from Shutterstock

Recycling may seem like a relatively recent invention, but a recent discovery indicates that recycling has been around for over 13,000 years! A new find at the Molí del Salt site in Tarragona, Spain indicates that Prehistoric people were recycling their goods as far back as the Upper Palaeolithic Age – and here we thought modern humans had the lockdown on recycling.

Recycling, Molí del Salt, Tarragona Spain, Spain, Archeology, Prehistoric tools, prehistoric communities, prehistoric tools, Journal of Archeological Science, Universitat Rovira i VirgiliAncient people photo from Shutterstock

In a recent study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, scientists identified tools that were altered after their initial use, indicating that once the tool had served its original purpose, it was recycled for another purpose. “In order to identify the recycling, it is necessary to differentiate the two stages of the manipulation sequence of an object: the moment before it is altered and the moment after. The two are separated by an interval in which the artifact has undergone some form of alteration. This is the first time a systematic study of this type has been performed,” says Manuel Vaquero, a researcher at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili.

The study indicates that although specialized tools like hunting implements were never made using recycled goods, day-to-day tools were created with a specific use in mind and then repurposed for a new use. This was likely driven by the need to preserve available resources and allow people to save time and energy by using tools that were already available. Researchers even suggest that Prehistoric people “could have moved objects from where they were originally located. They even could have dug up or removed sediments in search of tools.” Researchers say that they were able to identify recycled tools by examining burnt artifacts, which readily show when an item has been modified after its initial firing.

+ Journal of Archaeological Science