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Science

Stone Tool 1.83M Years Old Discovered In Malaysia 200

Posted by kdawson
from the chipping-away-at-it dept.
goran72 writes with news out of Malaysia that archaeologists have announced the discovery of stone tools more than 1.8 million years old — the earliest evidence of human ancestors in South-east Asia. Researchers believe the tools were made by members of the early human ancestor species Homo erectus. The tools actually date as slightly older than the earliest H. erectus fossils, which came from Georgia and China. No bones of that antiquity have so far been found in Malaysia. "The stone hand-axes were discovered last year in the historical site of Lenggong in northern Perak state, embedded in a type of rock formed by meteorites which was sent to a Japanese lab to be dated."
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Stone Tool 1.83M Years Old Discovered In Malaysia

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  • Re:Occams razor (Score:5, Informative)

    by Thiez (1281866) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @06:37PM (#26687675)

    Accepting the axioma of the earth being 6000 years old, Occam's razor would cut you for introducing new entities where they are not needed. More logical would be that someone used a granite rock from outer space to create stone axes and then arrange for some scientist to 'find' them.

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @06:44PM (#26687709)

    You were probably not a Boy Scout as a kid. There is actually a lot of work to make a sharp object out of a stone that is sharp and concisely sharp enough to be useful. Weather erosion like to make smooth surfaces not sharp ones. Rock chips at best will be good for poking but not cutting. So man made stone tools are actually quite different then a naturally occurring tool

  • by Zocalo (252965) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @06:46PM (#26687721) Homepage
    The article doesn't say, but if it's a flint then the stone is incredibly brittle and takes a considerable amount of skill to work without shattering the stone. Working flint (or any stone) to a point or an edge leaves a distinctive pattern of markings on the stone which would be all but impossible to have occurred naturally as you basically need to flake off the unwanted bits of flint until you get the desired edge or point. Natural weathering of stone tends to fall into a limited number of types, predominantly rounding through contact erosion, and shearing which is usually caused by freezing water breaking a stone in two. Neither of the natural patterns are likely to lead to the organised pattern of chips that a worked stone would exhibit.
  • Re:Archaeology (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zedrick (764028) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @06:56PM (#26687787)
    That's science fiction, not archaeology.
  • by Guido von Guido (548827) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @07:03PM (#26687827)
    Stone stools AKA coprolites [wikipedia.org] are actually pretty common, human or not.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01, 2009 @07:41PM (#26688085)

    "Experts say the result has a margin of error of 610,000 years and the find has to be approved by other experts as well, AP reported."

    I think this piece of info is worth mentioning.

  • by jd (1658) <imipak @ y a h o o .com> on Sunday February 01, 2009 @09:13PM (#26688637) Homepage Journal

    The only site with a decent image [thestate.com].

    A little more info [thearynews.com]

    Some more bits of info [zeenews.com]

    As can be seen from the first link, the object is not fractured along natural lines and is definitely axe-shaped. It is not some irregular thing that could have been formed by a boulder smashing down a river.

    The material is not flint. I am not certain what it is, but it's not a flint.

  • by Renegade Iconoclast (1415775) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @09:20PM (#26688673)

    Let m be the probability of 1 tool like rock. The probability of n tool like rocks found together is therefore m^n, I think.

    Of course, this is slashdot, so I'm definitely wrong.

  • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @10:33PM (#26689253) Journal
    Work with the native American cultures in Utah has shown that flint was not "chipped" into shape by striking. Arrow heads and spear points were shaped by heating the rock and dripping water on it. Thermal shock did the hard work. Yes, it took a considerable amount of work and skill to shape, but does not require impact that might shatter the rock. Pretty sophisticated technology for the day, but really all you needed was rock (flint, jasper or similar), fire, water and a steady hand. Try it yourself.
  • by Assassin bug (835070) on Monday February 02, 2009 @12:18AM (#26690031) Journal
    Look it up (and maybe read the article too). There is usually a considerable amount of evidence that goes along with these axes that makes them much more likely to be tools than the result of geologic processes. This particular item was collected from a a site that has a history of producing items from an ancient culture [wikipedia.org]. Yes, there are stones out there sharp enough to be useful (e.g., naturally broken pieces of obsidian). The point isn't that they are useful, but that they have been used. Some tools are made and some are found.
  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Monday February 02, 2009 @01:32AM (#26690623)
    Carbon dating is not the only dating technique. There are actually perhaps 30-35 different common dating techniques with useful time range from a matter of decades to billions of years, tens of billions of years infact.

    Another common one is radiometric dating which gives you a range of 700 million to 50 billion years (!). In a way Carbon 14 dating is radiometric dating, it's just using one particular isotope. In reality there a many different isotopes that may be used to suit the range you need.

    Since the stone tool is not organic matter, carbon 14 would not be useful. Carbon dating gets too inaccurate after 50,000 years.
  • Dmanisi 1.77Ma (Score:3, Informative)

    by epine (68316) on Monday February 02, 2009 @02:52AM (#26691167)

    It's unclear these days where erectus begins.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/20/science/20fossil.htm [nytimes.com]

    The Dmanisi specimens were quite different. Their skull sizes indicated that their brains were not much larger than the brain of a chimpanzee. Their brains were closer in size to those of Homo habilis, a poorly understood earlier ancestral species.

    In the last few years, however, the researchers collected more extensive, well-preserved skeletal remains of an adolescent and three adults. Some of the fossils resembled those of later erectus specimens in Africa. The lower limbs and arched feet reflected traits "for improved terrestrial locomotor performance," the team reported.

    Over all, the fossils were "a surprising mosaic" of primitive and evolved features. The small body and small craniums, the upper limbs, elbows and shoulders were more like the earliest habilis specimens.

  • by emilper (826945) on Monday February 02, 2009 @03:21AM (#26691327)

    They did not date the rock the tool was made off, but the rock in the strata the tool was found in.

    The bit about being "a type of rock formed by meteorites" quite probably means that the surrounding rock had bits of glass resulting from a meteorite impact. As with cooled magma, it is possible to measure the products of radioactive decay that are trapped in the rock, such as radon, who would have been freed while the rock was still hot, and determine the approximate date at which the rock cooled off. Of course, the precision is not great.

  • by Iron Sun (227218) on Monday February 02, 2009 @06:23AM (#26692189)

    Oh, those scientists are still unable to do what cro-magnon man could: make a simple obsidian rock pointy like an arrowhead.

    Um, what? Obsidian knapping is practiced by many people around the world who are quite capable [primitiveways.com] of producing fine points. You can find howtos on YouTube [youtube.com], so it's far from being a lost secret of the ancients.

    Best to check those overly broad claims before committing yourself to perpetuating them.

  • by Sabz5150 (1230938) on Monday February 02, 2009 @09:53AM (#26693417)

    Carbon dating gets too inaccurate after 50,000 years.

    Carbon dating doesn't just become inaccurate after 50,000 years... it becomes impossible to distinguish between measurable C14 decay and background radiation. It's completely inapplicable at that age.

  • by GooberToo (74388) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:32AM (#26693903)

    Rock chips at best will be good for poking but not cutting. So man made stone tools are actually quite different then a naturally occurring tool

    It really depends on the type of rock. Some rock, after being chipped become sharper than most modern day knives and are absolutely used for cutting. In fact, a rock smaller than the size of three of your fingers can be used to butcher an animal the size of a mammoth in about a day's time.

    The wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] incorrectly refers to it as "flint knapping", whereas, it should simply be called, "knapping". The article does correctly point out it can be done on other types of rock including, "flint, chert, obsidian or other stone". Its just that the first three types of stone are what is commonly used to create knives.

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