Tag Archives: human tools

Neanderthals developed first bone tools

Modern humans started ‘replacing’ Neanderthals some 40.000 years ago, and for a long time, it was thought this came as a result of the more advanced human intelect and a better ability to adapt; but as more and more studies unfold, the Neandertals’ capabilities are still greatly debated. Many scientists now argue that Neandertals had cultural capabilities similar to modern humans, and in some ways, were even intellectually superior.

bone tools

Such may be the case with these bone tools – it may not be that humans taught Neanderthals how to develop them, but the other way around.

“For now the bone tools from these two sites are one of the better pieces of evidence we have for Neandertals developing on their own a technology previously associated only with modern humans,” explains Dr. Shannon McPherron of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. He and Dr. Michel Lenoir of the University of Bordeaux have been excavating the site of Abri Peyrony where three of the bones were found.

Usually, whenever we find something from that period, it is either developed by humans or by humans and Neanderthals at the same time – this is a rare occasion when the roles have been reversed. The possibilities this discovery suggests are quite interesting.

“If Neandertals developed this type of bone tool on their own, it is possible that modern humans then acquired this technology from Neandertals. Modern humans seem to have entered Europe with pointed bone-tools only, and soon after started to make lissoir. This is the first possible evidence for transmission from Neandertals to our direct ancestors,” says Dr. Soressi of Leiden University, Netherland.

She and her team found these bone tools at the French site of Pech-de-l’AzĂ© I.

But there is another possibility – that this was also a human achievement, but humans entered Neanderthal territory sooner than previously believed. While more unlikely, this is also possible; regardless, the significance of this discovery offers a whole new angle to Neanderthalean tools.

Journal reference: PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1302730110

Ancient human tool use much earlier than thought!

Humans might have started using sophisticated tools some 1.76 million years ago, much earlier than previously believed. This has been suggested by the discovery of hand axes from that period which belong to the complex Archeulean culture. This could also change what we believe about the period when humans started leaving Africa.

Anthropologists consider the Acheulean hand axes to be the culture of our ancestor Homo erectus, and we know H. erectus first evolved around 1.8 or 2 million years ago,” study researcher Christopher Lepre, of Columbia University, said. “I think most researchers were anticipating that older stone axes would be found.” And now they’ve found them.

Several of these hand axes belonging to the Archeulean were found; they were built from chipped volcanic rock from a nearby stream, were found at a site on the shore of Lake Turkana in Kenya. They found that the axes have different levels of sophistication – for that period, that is.

“There’s not a tremendous amount of diligence that goes into making the Oldowan tools, you can say they are kind of haphazardly made,” Lepre said. “It’s pretty simple in terms of the makers were bashing stones together to make sharp edges.”

The data indicates that there were at least 2 tool-using hominids living in Africa 1.76 million years ago, but what’s still a mystery is how these tools left Africa, because the Archeulean culture and their tools didn’t leave Africa until about 1 million years ago, and it is currently believed that Homo Erectus colonized Europe 1.5 million years ago.

This could mean two things: either that the Homo Erectus that migrated to Europe didn’t develop Archeulean technologies for half million years, or that Homo Erectus wasn’t the species who created those axes at all. They could have been developed by the lesser evolved Homo habilis. Either way, so far, something doesn’t seem to add up.