A set of pieces found in the archaeological site of Sungir, located 200 kilometers east of Moscow, offers a rich trove of clues on how Homo sapiens managed to dominate hard materials and transform them into useful tools, about 30,000 years ago.

Archaeologists from Lomonosov Moscow State University analyzed 171 objects of bone and ivory. Their findings showed that during the upper Paleolithic period modern man had already developed several complex techniques for processing hard materials, including the transverse fracture, scraping and cutting.

Taisiya Soldatova, an anthropologist at Moscow State and lead author of the research, told Scientific American that the objects not only help us to better understand the daily life of early modern humans but also offer insights on cultural ties between that area of Russia and what is now Europe. “In some areas of France, for example, techniques similar to those found in Sungir for toolmaking were used. Comparing these objects—the kind of instruments, materials and how they were created—helps us know the place Sungir occupied as a community in the region,” Soldatova says.

The work was published by the Erlangen, Germany–based Hugo Obermaier Society for Quaternary Research and Archaeology of the Stone Age.