The massive discovery of 400,000-year-old bone tools challenges our understanding of early humans

as long Lower Paleolithic Archeology says that’s exactly what it takes: Experts have discovered 98 elephant-bone tools at a site dating back about 400,000 years. This discovery could change the way we think about how some early humans loved Neanderthals Styling tools like this one.

The bones were collected from a place called Castel di Guido, near present-day Rome. In the dark and distant past, it was a popular watering place for the lost now straight-toothed elephant (Paleoloxodone), and it appears that a large number of animals also died.

The newly identified set of tools shows that the ancient humans at Castel di Guido did not squander the remaining bones, but instead created a primitive production chain with methods not seen before in the distant past, at least not to such an extent.

“We’re seeing other sites with bone tools right now,” Archaeologist Paula Vela says:, University of Colorado Boulder. “But there is not that diversity in well-defined forms.”

“At Castel di Guido, humans usually break the long bones of elephants and produce standard blanks for making bone tools. This kind of efficiency did not spread until after a long time.”

Castel di Guido website. (Villa et al., PLOS ONE, 2021)

Based on evidence collected from other sites, early humans generally used all available bone fragments, without refining or adapting them – but at Castel di Guido it was different.

The technique they used is known as pumpkin landing, or cut pieces of bone using a separate tool to make certain tools. Stone tools could have been shaped in a similar way and were more common at this time, which made the discovery of 98 bone tools a surprise.

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The researchers note that this does not mean that the ancient humans living here were particularly “intelligent”. The explanation may simply be that they had more elephant bones to work with than the other groups, and less access to large pieces of natural flint for making stone tools instead.

The tools they made included those that could be used to cut meat, as well as wedges that could be deployed to create force to break large bones such as elephant bones.

“Start by creating a groove where you can insert those heavy parts with a sharp edge”, this villa. “Then you knock it down and break a bone at some point.”

One of the most interesting tools discovered on the site is the so-called smootherA long, smooth bone at one end that can be used to treat skin. These types of tools only became popular about 300,000 years ago.

Leswar was found at the site. (Villa et al., 2021, PLOS ONE)

Due to the variety of types of tools here and the techniques used to create them, archaeologists may have to readjust the time frames of when these tools were originally developed and the ways in which they were produced.

For now, this appears to be an isolated breakthrough in bone production technology. Based on the available evidence, researchers believe that Neanderthals occupied the site and have produced clues that are now cataloged.

“About 400,000 years ago, I began to see the usual use of fire, the beginning of the Neanderthal dynasty,” this villa. “This is a very important period for Castel de Guido.”

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