Adhesives: Solving Problems Since Prehistoric Times

Posted on 11/16/2021 8:18:06 AM By ASC

Scientists have gathered evidence that shows that using adhesive bonding is not a new solution, and neither is it the product of the past couple of centuries. Instead archaeologists have discovered that humans such as the Neanderthals were using a form of bonding as long as two hundred thousand years ago, and that since then adhesives have been following mankind, and evolving alongside of them ever since

The archaeological finds reveal that the use of adhesives to solve mankind’s problems began when these early humans developed weapons and tools and joining the functionally necessary stone blades and sharp points to the wooden handles and shafts which would support them became imperative.

In finding a solution, these prehistoric humans did not have the broad range of options, technology, or the variety of uses for which adhesives are now used, which stretch from simple bonding tasks to solving the problems created by 3D printing and the production of electric vehicles. However, it appears from the age-old relics that they, just like the people of today, found the best (and possibly only) way to join items when they needed to do so.

Their choice was processing and using a tar made from heating the black fluid released by the bark of certain trees like the birch. Viewing this from a perspective based 200 000 years in the future, it might seem impossible to many that the early humans could have managed to process it. Today, processing tar is seen as involving several steps, includes the use of ceramic containers, and requires precise temperature control of the fire which is used to process it.

However the archaeologists, driven by evidence of the Neanderthals’ successful bonding when using the adhesive tar to join stone and wood, and their accumulated information on the techniques they used, have recognized a way prehistoric humans could have developed a simpler but efficient process.

The simplest approach would have been covering a tied roll of birch bark with ashes and embers from wood fires. The secreted fluid would collect in the tied tube of bark and create usable amounts of tar for bonding. For greater effectiveness and productivity, the researchers suggest that a birch bark cup may have been placed in the tied bark tube to ensure sufficient tar was collected.