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Tool Use By Humans Pushed Back By 800,000 Years 189

gpronger writes "The journal Nature reports that newly discovered tool marks on bones indicates that we were using tools at minimum 800,000 years earlier than previously thought. This places the start of tool use at 3.4 million years ago or earlier. The most likely ancestor in this time frame would be Australopithecus afarensis. The researchers, led by palaeoanthropologist Zeresenay Alemseged of the California Academy of Science, San Francisco,and Shannon McPherron, (an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany) state that cut marks on the bones of an impala-sized creature and another closer in size to a buffalo, indicate butchering of the animals by our distant ancestors. However, they do not believe that they were in fact hunters, more likely scavenging the remains left behind by large predators."
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Tool Use By Humans Pushed Back By 800,000 Years

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  • not exactly... (Score:4, Informative)

    by m.shenhav ( 948505 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @06:11AM (#33226232)
    It should be noted that while human imagination is alright, its in fact failing us most of the time when it comes to technology (as statistics on patents and businesses show). It can be thought of as mutation in the process of cultural evolution.

    People try stuff out and see what works, often discovering a very different application then originally intended or finding the thing useless. This is selection.

    It is the accurate transmission (or in evolution terms reproduction) of complex multi-step tool production methods that allows for cumulative cultural evolution. This kind of thing is hard to prove for animals- but there are chimpanzee troops with multi-step tool production.

    The recombination of such behaviors/tools/ideas is accelerating the process even further, which is why technological evolution is accelerating while genetically we haven't changed that much (conjecture!). In fact we have not so distant relatives (so called Boskop man) that had larger average cranial volume.
  • by Theatetus ( 521747 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @06:59AM (#33226404) Journal
    Even non-hominids use implements like rocks and sticks. Tools are specifically fabricated or altered: what's important about tools is not that they are used but that they are made. Unless we find the rocks they used and see whether they were flaked by the hominids or just found already sharp, we can't call these "tools".
  • by dingen ( 958134 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @07:41AM (#33226602)
    Homo Sapiens are around for about 500,000 years, but what they're talking about in this article are our ancestors of human-like primates, of which some species are tens of millions of years old.
  • Re:Evolution (Score:3, Informative)

    by JustOK ( 667959 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @08:32AM (#33226892) Journal

    potato salads might have eyes.

  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) * on Thursday August 12, 2010 @08:43AM (#33226962) Journal
    Most things that are claimed to be uniquely human are just more sophisticated versions of what other intelligent animals can do []. As you point out birds (and chimps) have primative tool designing abilities. Birds and chimps also make elaborate nests [] by collecting and assembling parts, chimp nests [] are a kind of bed they build in a tree to sleep at night.
  • by chris mazuc ( 8017 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @11:49AM (#33228912)

    Off Amazon, order a book called the Hidden History of the Human Race (The Condensed Edition of Forbidden Archeology)

    No, please don't. []

    The Hidden History of the Human Race is a frustrating book. The motivation of the authors, "members of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, a branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness" (p. xix), is to find support in the data of paleoanthropology and archaeology for the Vedic scriptures of India. Their methods are borrowed from fundamentalist Christian creationists (whom they assiduously avoid citing). They catalog odd "facts" which appear to conflict with the modern scientific understanding of human evolution and they take statements from the work of conventional scholars and cite them out of context to support some bizarre assertion which the original author would almost certainly not have advocated. Cremo and Thompson regard their collection of dubious facts as "anomalies" that the current paradigm of paleoanthropology cannot explain. Sadly, they offer no alternative paradigm which might accommodate both the existing data and the so-called anomalies they present; although they do indicate that a second volume is planned which will relate their "extensive research results" to their "Vedic source material" (p. xix). Kuhn noted that "To reject one paradigm without simultaneously substituting another is to reject science itself" (1970, p. 79); and that is precisely what Cremo and Thompson do. They claim that "mechanistic science" is a "militant ideology, skillfully promoted by the combined effort of scientists, educators, and wealthy industrialists, with a view towards establishing worldwide intellectual dominance" (p. 196).

    [ ... ]

    Cremo and Thompson's claim that anatomically modern Homo sapiens sapiens have been around for hundreds of millions of years is an outrageous notion. Accepting that there is a place in science for seemingly outrageous hypotheses (cf. Davis, 1926) there is no justification for the sort of sloppy rehashing of canards, hoaxes, red herrings, half-truths and fantasies Cremo and Thompson offer in the service of a religious ideology. Readers who are interested in a more credible presentation of the overwhelming evidence for human evolution should consult Ian Tattersall's wonderful recent book The Fossil Trail: how we know what we think we know about human evolution.

  • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @12:59PM (#33229736)

    I'd think the existence of canine and incisor teeth in humans would be enough to convince any reasonable person that were are evolved to be omnivorous.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama