Them ol' flint knapping dumb brutes ain't arf done it this time

25 Jan 2012

At www.alphagalileo.org/PrintView.aspx?ItemId=116263&CultureCode=en (and also at the Daily Mail, online, but the comments are so bad, stay away) ... anthropologists at the University of Kent have published research on the stone tools used by our early human ancestors - and how they may have been engineered. In particular, they were interested in what is known as Levallois flaked stone tools that were common across Europe, Western Asia and North Africa as early as 300,000 years ago. The stone core is shaped in a deliberate manner so that only after preparation could a prehistoric flint knapper remove the characteristic Levalloise flakes. The working stone therefore was deliberately sought out, differentiating it from other stones as the working piece had to possess the properties required for the finished product. The researcher, who also does a spot of flint knapping himself, said, 'the more we learn about the stone toolmaking of Neanderthals and their contemporaries the more elegant it becomes. The sophistication evident in their tool making suggests cognitive abilities more similar to our own than not' - which is pretty revealing. The exclusive nature of modern human cognitive powers is washed away with that statement and when it is also considered that human tool making must primarily have involved wood and fibres, and bamboos, we can visualise what a great big unknown our early human ancestors really are. We may also wonder what else anthropologists have not included in our origins - but what is most interesting about the study is that these tools were specifically designed for mobility and possessed the potential for resharpening and re-use time after time, yet they were light enough to be portable. The symmetry and thickness of Levallois flakes aligned the tool's centre of mass with the tool's motion during use.