Superglue: Stone Age Humans Beat Us to It

By Rachel Cernansky | May 12, 2009 1:03 pm

ochre.jpgSuperglue may be a modern convenience, but it might not be such a recent invention. Using Stone Age materials, South Africa-based researchers have recreated a glue that they suspect people at that time made to hold their tools together.

Red ochre dye once thought by archaeologists to only serve a decorative or symbolic purpose in present-day South Africa 70,000 years ago, may have actually been the magic ingredient in a Stone Age recipe for natural superglue.

The natural red pigment is rich in iron, and was added to the gum of acacia trees to create an adhesive, a blend that the new research shows was less brittle and more durable than glue made solely from acacia gum. Researcher Lyn Wadley said, “We discovered that when we used ochre, the glue is much more robust, and the stone tool doesn’t come off the shaft.”

How Stone Age humans devised the trick, however, is still a mystery—and quite an impressive one: Wadley said, “They couldn’t possibly have known about chemical pH or iron content.”

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Image: Wikimedia

MORE ABOUT: archaeology, extinction


  • Joe

    Oh yea right. They were all stoopid. That’s how they built those pyramids.

  • Christina Viering

    Trial and error.

  • ian

    No kidding.

    I don’t know anything about computer hardware or how internet traffic works, but I still managed to post this comment!

  • Woody Tanaka

    Didn’t even need to be trial and error, could have been happenstance and observation. Those weapons which were painted with the red ochre over the acacia gum lasted longer, so soon they all used the red ochre. Those who mixed the red ochre with the acacia gum lasted even longer. Soon, all were mixed with the acacia gum.


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