Human evolution; stone tools very early in Asia (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, November 20, 2018, 18:49 (562 days ago) @ David Turell

A type of advanced stone tool is now found in Asia and dated to as much as 130-180,000 years ago:

"A study by an international team of researchers, including from the University of Washington, determines that carved stone tools, also known as Levallois cores, were used in Asia 80,000 to 170,000 years ago. Developed in Africa and Western Europe as far back as 300,000 years ago, the cores are a sign of more-advanced toolmaking -- the "multi-tool" of the prehistoric world -- but, until now, were not believed to have emerged in East Asia until 30,000 to 40,000 years ago.

"With the find -- and absent human fossils linking the tools to migrating populations -- researchers believe people in Asia developed the technology independently, evidence of similar sets of skills evolving throughout different parts of the ancient world.


"Levallois-shaped cores -- the "Swiss Army knife of prehistoric tools," Marwick said -- were efficient and durable, indispensable to a hunter-gatherer society in which a broken spear point could mean certain death at the claws or jaws of a predator. The cores were named for the Levallois-Perret suburb of Paris, where stone flakes were found in the 1800s.


"The researchers analyzed more than 2,200 artifacts found at Guanyindong Cave, narrowing down the number of Levallois-style stone cores and flakes to 45. Among those believed to be in the older age range, about 130,000 to 180,000 years old, the team also was able to identify the environment in which the tools were used: an open woodland on a rocky landscape, in "a reduced rainforest area compared to today," the authors note.

"In Africa and Europe these kinds of stone tools are often found at archaeological sites starting from 300,000 and 200,000 years ago. They are known as Mode III technology, part of a broad evolutionary sequence that was preceded by hand-axe technology (Mode II) and followed by blade tool technology (Mode IV). Archaeologists thought that Mode IV technologies arrived in China by migration from the West, but these new finds suggest they could have been locally invented. At the time people were making tools in Guanyindong Cave, the Denisovans -- ancestors to Homo sapiens and relative contemporaries to Neandertals elsewhere in the world -- roamed East Asia. But while hundreds of fossils of archaic humans and related artifacts, dating as far back as more than 3 million years ago, have been found in Africa and Europe, the archaeological record in East Asia is sparser.


"In the evolution of tools, Levallois cores represent something of a middle stage. Subsequent manufacturing processes yielded more-refined blades made of rocks and minerals that were more resistant to flaking, and composites that, for example, combined a spear point with blades along the edge. The appearance of blades later in time indicates a further increase in the complexity and the number of steps required to make the tools.

"'The appearance of the Levallois strategy represents a big increase in the complexity of technology because there are so many steps that have to work in order to get the final product, compared to previous technologies," Marwick said."

Comment: It looks as if advanced H. sapiens were more widespread over the world than just Africa and then Europe.

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