Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science Technology

'Staying Longer At Home' Was Key To Stone Age Technology Change 60,000 Years Ago (phys.org) 74

A new study by scientists at the University of the Witwatersrand suggests that at about 58,000 years ago, Stone Age humans began to settle down, staying in one area for longer periods. The research also provides a potential answer to a long-held mystery: why older, Howiesons Poort complex technological tradition in South Africa, suddenly disappear at that time. Phys.Org reports: The Howiesons Poort at Sibudu contains many finely-worked, crescent-shaped stone tools fashioned from long, thin blades made on dolerite, hornfels and, to a lesser extent, quartz. These "segments," as they are called, were hafted to shafts or handles at a variety of angles using compound adhesives that sometimes included red ochre (an iron oxide). A diverse bone tool kit in the Howiesons Poort includes what may be the world's oldest bone arrowhead. Certainly a variety of hunting techniques was used perhaps including the first use of snares for the capture of small creatures. The animal remains brought to Sibudu reflect this diversity for there are bones from large plains game like zebra, tiny blue duiker, and even pigeons and small carnivores. Soft, clayey ochre pieces were collected in the Howiesons Poort perhaps at a considerable distance From Sibudu. Clayey ochre is useful for applying as paint. The beautiful Howiesons Poort industry with its long, thin blades is replaced at 58,000 years ago by a simple technology that could be rapidly produced. Coarse rocks like quartzite and sandstone became popular. These could be collected close to Sibudu. Post-Howiesons Poort tools were part of an unstandardized toolkit with triangular or irregularly-shaped flakes. Tiny scaled pieces were also produced using a bipolar technique (in the simplest terms this involves smashing a small piece of rock with a hammerstone). The study has been published in the journal PlosOne.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

'Staying Longer At Home' Was Key To Stone Age Technology Change 60,000 Years Ago

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Working from home has really been key to me improving my life as well.
  • Race to the bottom (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Comboman ( 895500 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @08:14AM (#55342409)

    The beautiful Howiesons Poort industry with its long, thin blades is replaced at 58,000 years ago by a simple technology that could be rapidly produced.

    Skilled craftsmen replaced by cheap labor. Who knew it was a tradition 58,000 years old.

    • The beautiful Howiesons Poort industry with its long, thin blades is replaced at 58,000 years ago by a simple technology that could be rapidly produced.

      Skilled craftsmen replaced by cheap labor. Who knew it was a tradition 58,000 years old.

      Greed is timeless.

      So much so that unless we solve for the disease of Greed, we will be ultimately destroyed by it.

      • The beautiful Howiesons Poort industry with its long, thin blades is replaced at 58,000 years ago by a simple technology that could be rapidly produced.

        Skilled craftsmen replaced by cheap labor. Who knew it was a tradition 58,000 years old.

        Greed is timeless.

        So much so that unless we solve for the disease of Greed, we will be ultimately destroyed by it.

        Greed and efficiency can differ depending on the eye of the beholder...

        • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @10:09AM (#55343021) Journal

          Greed and efficiency are related, because one is simply a subjective judgement on the other.

          If a craftsman can create a nice pretty and highly functional arrowhead in 18 hours, and an journeyman can make one every hour using simpler techniques, he can build 18 arrowheads in the same time as a craftsman can make in an hour, and that has its own advantages. You can call that "greed" all you want, but when trading time comes, the guy with 18 arrowheads is gonna get more in trade than the guy with only one, even if it is better constructed and prettier. Though the nice one will likely end up with the chief / prince / king as a ceremonial piece that is never actually used.

          Greed (subjective interpretation) is, for lack of better understanding, how trade actually works. After all, what does Uggah need with 18 semi automatic arrowheads?

          • Greed and efficiency are related, because one is simply a subjective judgement on the other.

            If a craftsman can create a nice pretty and highly functional arrowhead in 18 hours, and an journeyman can make one every hour using simpler techniques, he can build 18 arrowheads in the same time as a craftsman can make in an hour, and that has its own advantages. You can call that "greed" all you want, but when trading time comes, the guy with 18 arrowheads is gonna get more in trade than the guy with only one, even if it is better constructed and prettier. Though the nice one will likely end up with the chief / prince / king as a ceremonial piece that is never actually used.

            Greed (subjective interpretation) is, for lack of better understanding, how trade actually works. After all, what does Uggah need with 18 semi automatic arrowheads?

            Well stated.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            This comment strikes as from someone that knows how to string words together, but does not know what the words mean and has nothing to actually say.

            Greed is not a subjective interpretation or judgement. It is a value.

            Trade is not inherit to existence. For nearly all of the last 320,000 years, hominids making better use of materials or time meant they had to do less work, not that they should do the same and profit more. Archeological evidence clearly shows this. Never do we see "Ugghah" with piles and piles

          • Greed and efficiency are related, because one is simply a subjective judgement on the other.

            If a craftsman can create a nice pretty and highly functional arrowhead in 18 hours, and an journeyman can make one every hour using simpler techniques, he can build 18 arrowheads in the same time as a craftsman can make in an hour, and that has its own advantages. You can call that "greed" all you want, but when trading time comes, the guy with 18 arrowheads is gonna get more in trade than the guy with only one, even if it is better constructed and prettier. Though the nice one will likely end up with the chief / prince / king as a ceremonial piece that is never actually used.

            Greed (subjective interpretation) is, for lack of better understanding, how trade actually works. After all, what does Uggah need with 18 semi automatic arrowheads?

            Your arguments and examples are outdated and therefore irrelevant when the next generation of craftsman aren't human. Automation and AI are the next workforce, which society does not have a plan as to how to sustain and reward an unemployable human.

            What brings on automation and AI? Obscene Greed does. It's the CEO who refuses to pay a living wage so they can maintain millions in bonuses by replacing human workers with robots. It's the company who labels shitty AI good enough to replace human workers.

      • So much so that unless we solve for the disease of Greed, we will be ultimately destroyed by it.

        Greed is what makes every economy work and to think otherwise is naive. Without some amount of greed people sit on their ass and do nothing that they absolutely do not have to. The trick is to harness greed in productive ways and limit the excesses through appropriate laws and social institutions. Unchecked greed is a terrible thing but carefully harnessed and directed self interest can be extremely useful.

      • Says the person who is probably, based on what is said on this site, either a programmer or self-employed. Or both.

        Either way, I'm sure you never go for the highest paying job. Wouldn't want to be greedy.

      • Indeed, if we stop the idea that we should do things with fewer resources, less time, and ultimately more cheaply, we'll all die because we can't support 7 billion people on earth with 1800s technology. But of course, that is probably what you'd like.
    • Kinda funny, but not relevant.

      ... about 58,000 years ago, Stone Age humans began to settle down, staying in one area for longer periods.

      TFA compares craftsmanship pre/post, but does not address the effectiveness of the tools.

      If raw materials close to home can be worked more rapidly and get the job done, the fact that the aesthetics suffered (judged by more modern beings who didn't live in that moment) is moot.

      Apparently, productivity did not suffer.

      • Kinda funny, but not relevant.

        Thanks, that's my goal. They don't give mod points for relevance.

    • It wasn't skilled, it was beautiful.

      What we have here is a case of people not knowing how to make good blades, so instead they made pretty ones.

      Once they figured out how to make GOOD blades, they found them so useful that it no longer made sense to pretty them up. Instead they made a ton of the new, improved technology, but did not have time to make beautiful works of art.

  • Not the whole story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spaceman375 ( 780812 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @08:17AM (#55342417)

    It seems to me that there still would have been traders and other travelers. If the Howiesons Poort tech was so much better there would have been demand for the raw materials. Perhaps they were decimated by inter-tribal warfare. Travel also spreads disease, so a plague or two could have brought them down. There are more factors to this than one simple explanation.

    • > If the Howiesons Poort tech was so much better there would have been demand

      There are so many possibilities, most of which involve them being killed by more numerous but lower-tech neighbours. After all, we're not talking about the difference between a spear and a rifle, or even between a sword and a longbow. So I think, "We want your tools", "We want your tool makers", "You compete with us for food and land and have to go" are the most likely motivations to wipe them out.

      Disease and trade wouldn't e

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Wasn't there a late Bronze Age collapse where trade networks failed?

        I don't see why it wouldn't happen in the stone age as well.

      • TFA is not about an extinction event.

        • It absolutely is - a cultural extinction.

          • Nice dodge. Trump is hiring.

            • I was trying to have an intelligent conversation, but apparently you're either not interested or not capable of that.

              Have you tried Reddit?

              • Of the two choices you suggest: Interest or capability, it's actually neither.

                I looked at reddit right after it amped up and I avoid that shit hole like I do the comment section of most Facebook news stories.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Perhaps they were decimated by inter-tribal warfare.

      I don't think that's possible. We're talking about pre-Colonial South Africa. My professor said that all Indigenous Africans, like all Indigenous Americans, lived peacefully until Europeans arrived. It was only then that these peaceful Indigenous Peoples were introduced to the atrocities of violence and warfare be these European colonizers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I think your professor was over-generalizing. Pre-Contact American societies may have been relatively less warlike than the Europeans, but things were definitely not uniformly kumbaya in the Americas. There is lots of archeologcal evidence of people coming to violent deaths in warfare.

        Africa, especially in the north and toward the Equator, tended to be even more violent than Europe.

        The best quote, I think, of Ken Burn's The Vietnam War is from Karl Marlantes, an ex-Marine: "One of the things that I learn

    • Keep in mind the population was much, much, much, much, much lower than what we consider "ancient" times. And technology used for trading had not been invented yet - no mass domestication of animals, and the wheel was invented ~50,000 years later.

      There could very well have been no traders.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @08:21AM (#55342431)

    The article has this picture [internapcdn.net] which shows some of the alleged "tools".

    Years ago my uncle had a dirt and gravel business. He had piles of stones 20 feet high that looked just like those in that picture, that he had crushed from larger rocks.

    How can these scientists be so sure that such stones are actually tools of some sort? Just because a rock has a sharp edge doesn't prove that it has been intentionally worked by humans and used as a tool. Depending on the type of rock, just breaking a larger boulder (which could happen completely naturally, without human intervention) can give stones with sharp edges, or otherwise cause markings on the stones.

    It's one thing when we're talking about an Amerindian arrow head, which has a defined shape and very specific machining that would be quite unlikely to happen in nature. But the rocks shown in the article's picture look like gravel. They have no specific shapes. They have no obvious signs of being worked by humans. They look like plain gravel.

    • First climatology, now archaeology. Not even /. Is immune from the spread of anti-science.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I don't see how the parent comment is "anti-science", like you wrongly claim it is.

        Science is all about asking questions. Science is all about scrutiny. Science is all about taking a critical look at evidence. Science is all about questioning the methodologies and discoveries of other scientists.

        If anyone is anti-science, it is you and people like you who claim that asking questions is somehow "wrong" or should be discouraged.

        Any researcher who is resistant to his work being questioned is not a scientist, e

        • Perhaps my comment was too brief.

          You are right that science involves asking (and providing a lot of research and thought into answering) questions.

          But claiming that the the validity of TFA conclusions is in question because the picture looks like what might be found in a landscaping supply yard is about as anti-science as, well, a box of racks. It represents a rejection of the structures and institutions involved in the exploration of science, which while full of failings and biases, are not so far corrupte

    • This is a real issue that archaeologists are having.

      I don't know what's being shown in the arrows in the picture you linked, but one if the hopes is that better 3D scanning/mapping will help differentiate accidental/natural and intentional marks.

      I've seen the discussion most heated in trying to look at what other primates are up to, as there's some debate about their tool use, and tools to make tools use

    • I ain't no anthropologist, but:
      1. If you find stones away from where they would have been quarried or carried by water.
      2. If you find animal/human remains on the stones.
      3. If you find stone marks on animal/human remains.
      4. If you find the quarry.
      5. You find them in trash piles.

    • Uhm... Your uncle had crushed them from larger rocks => they are man-made, no?
    • by Allasard ( 565291 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @09:49AM (#55342893)
      Percussion impacts [wikipedia.org]
      You can see best from Fig 1. in your link. They aren't randomly flaked, but usually in a pattern of larger to smaller flakes to create a fine edge. And I think the other figures are showing what are known as "hammers" that were used to create the blades. They would show repeated impacts in the same place or scratches in a certain area.

      That aren't just random crushed rocks, if you know what you are looking for.

    • He had piles of stones 20 feet high that looked just like those in that picture, that he had crushed from larger rocks

      In other words, you didn't just find natural stone that you looked similar, your uncle used tools to create that pile of stones. There's your answer right there... a pile of stones with similar sharp edges implies human activities. Especially if the stones type different from indigenous stones in the immediate vicinity.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @08:21AM (#55342433) Homepage Journal

    As any fule kno, you can't invent anything unless you have a shed.

  • by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @08:29AM (#55342449) Homepage
    "staying longer at home"! So primitive humans were actually today's millennials!
  • I believe this more like this: If you don't spend all your time finding supplies for survival, you have time left to use your brain for other things.The settling just correlates with a general shift in foraging/thinking time...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's funny you think this. Simple societies actually have *more* free time, not less. You hunt, you get a big meal, it's like Thanksgiving, and you relax until you're hungry again. No lawn to maintain, no house to clean, no bills to pay, no 8 hours at a job. Eat and rest until you're hungry enough to go looking for more food.

      I'm not saying it's a better life because of this. Death lurks around the corner with even slight interruption to the food supply. There is no warehousing and no reserve food. Wh

      • You can check if this is true by simply looking at primitive people; are they well fed, or are they underfed? If they're typically underfed and the children commonly have illnesses related to poor nutrition, then it is nothing like you say and they probably worked full time just to achieve partial food supply, which is as good as most manage. If you're lucky enough to have the very best climate and land, you can do a lot better and have free time. But the vast majority of the places in the world, the primit

        • It depends on the terrain but when bow hunting I routinely get within arms length of whitetail deer. I wouldn't underestimate someone that unlike me has spent their entire life focused on hunting with primitive tools and who hunts in small packs of other men who have spent their lives doing the same.
  • We're trying to improve humanity through the creation of innovative tools

There's nothing worse for your business than extra Santa Clauses smoking in the men's room. -- W. Bossert

Working...