Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Neanderthals and their contemporaries engineered stone tools
New published research from anthropologists at the University of Kent has scientifically supported for the first time the long held theory that early human ancestors across Africa, Western Asia and Europe engineered their stone tools.
For over a century, anthropologists have debated the significance of a group of stone age artifacts manufactured by at least three prehistoric hominin species, including the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis). These artifacts, collectively known as ‘Levallois’, were manufactured across Europe, Western Asia and Africa as early as 300,000 years ago.
Levallois artifacts are flaked stone tools described by archaeologists as ‘prepared cores’ i.e. the stone core is shaped in a deliberate manner such that only after such specialised preparation could a prehistoric flintknapper remove a distinctive ‘Levallois flake’. Levallois flakes have long been suspected by researchers to be intentionally sought by prehistoric hominins for supposedly unique, standardised size and shape properties. However, such propositions were regarded as controversial by some, and in recent decades some researchers questioned whether Levallois tool production involved conscious, structured planning that resulted in predetermined, engineered products.
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