Posts Tagged ‘Stone Age’

Mysterious 6,000 year old Neolithic tool

February 15, 2015

Photo: Trond Meling, Universitetet i Stavanger


It is wooden, about 6,000 years old and was found at a stone age settlement at Sømmevågen, near Stavanger Airport in Norway. It is about 20cm long.

The slit which looks to be about 10cm long and about 0.5cm wide suggests to me that its application was connected to the collection/gathering/ sorting and twisting of some kind of fibre material (early rope?). My guess is that this is an early “weaving” tool.

Wooden stone age tools are rare but not unknown. The remains of wooden paddles, handles for axes, lances and even front-weighted throwing spears have been found. Certainly the use of natural fibres to make string/rope would have been known by this time. To “weave” these into early versions of strip and cloth would have required some wooden tools.

The ancient melting pots of Europe

October 11, 2013

Stone Age settlers migrated across Europe in multiple waves that replaced older hunter-gatherer cultures with the genes from each wave blending into the population of the day. Ancient mtDNA studies are revealing that cultures spread to a great extent by the physical migrations of peoples and possibly faster and more effectively than by cultural diffusion alone. And the many different gene-melts continue today. Whereas in the Stone Age much of the action was in Central Europe, in the jet-age the melting-pots have shifted westwards and are mainly now in Western and Northern Europe. The peopling of Europe is an ongoing thing.

Guido Brandt, Wolfgang Haak, Christina J. Adler, Christina Roth, Anna Szécsényi-Nagy, Sarah Karimnia, Sabine Möller-Rieker, Harald Meller, Robert Ganslmeier, Susanne Friederich, Nicole Nicklisch, Joseph K. Pickrell, Frank Sirocko, David Reich, Alan Cooper, Kurt W. Alt and The Genographic Consortium, “DNA reveals key stages in the formation of Central European mitochondrial genetic diversity,” Science doi: 10.1126/science.1241844

National Geographic:

… the people who lived in Central Europe 7,000 years ago had different DNA lineages than those that lived there 5,000 years ago, and again different to those that lived 3,500 years ago. Central Europe was dynamic place during the Bronze age, and the genetic composition of the people that lived there demonstrates that there was nothing static about European prehistory.

Genographic Project Director and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Spencer Wells expounds: “spanning a period from the dawn of farming during the Neolithic period through to the Bronze Age, the [genetic] data from the archaeological remains reveals successive waves of migration and population replacement- genetic ‘revolutions’ that combined to create the genetic patterns we see today.”

What we see in Europeans today is a kind of mixture of what was present there at different times in our past. So, just like parts of Europe today are melting pots from different living cultures across the world, Europe is also a melting pot of genetic lineages from different prehistoric cultures that lived there at different periods of time.

timeline peopling of europe Brandt et al, DOI: 10.1126/science.1241844 fig.3


Dienekes: “Central Europe, once populated exclusively by hunter-gatherers, experienced a virtual disappearance of their matrilineages for almost two thousand years after the advent of farming.  Then, between the Middle to Late Neolithic, around five thousand year ago, the hunter-gatherers make their re-appearance before their lineages converge to their modern (minority) frequency”

Coping with climate change drove innovation

June 18, 2013

When and how innovation occurs sometimes seems random and the corporate world has long pursued the creation of “environments” in which innovation can flourish. And while the very definition of what counts as innovation can be debated, it seems to me that it is a changing environment rather than a static environment which is a key ingredient. And it could well be that the greater the change to be handled then the very necessity of coping with that change could be the “mother of all innovation”.

I suspect that some of the most fundamental innovations have been driven by the need not just to survive but also to thrive in “rapidly” changing and threatening environments. And climate change where “rapid” would mean several hundred if not thousands of years would also have been a powerful driver. One advantage in the stone age would have been that humans would have focused on coping with the change as it unfolded and not wasted too much effort in trying to control the climate.

A new paper addresses how climate change could have driven innovation in the stone age centered around the discovery and establishment of new refuges.

Ziegler, M. et al. Development of Middle Stone Age innovation linked to rapid climate changeNature Communications 4, Article number: 1905.

Abstract: The development of modernity in early human populations has been linked to pulsed phases of technological and behavioural innovation within the Middle Stone Age of South Africa. However, the trigger for these intermittent pulses of technological innovation is an enigma. Here we show that, contrary to some previous studies, the occurrence of innovation was tightly linked to abrupt climate change. Major innovational pulses occurred at times when South African climate changed rapidly towards more humid conditions, while northern sub-Saharan Africa experienced widespread droughts, as the Northern Hemisphere entered phases of extreme cooling. These millennial-scale teleconnections resulted from the bipolar seesaw behaviour of the Atlantic Ocean related to changes in the ocean circulation. These conditions led to humid pulses in South Africa and potentially to the creation of favourable environmental conditions. This strongly implies that innovational pulses of early modern human behaviour were climatically influenced and linked to the adoption of refugia.

PhysOrg reviews the paper:

According to a study by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, the University of Cardiff and the Natural History Museum in London, technological innovation during the Stone Age occurred in fits and starts and was climate-driven. Abrupt changes in rainfall in South Africa 40,000 to 80,000 years ago triggered the development of technologies for finding refuge and the behaviour of modern humans. This study was recently published in Nature Communications.

Archaeological and genetic evidence suggests that modern humans (the modern form of Homo sapiens, our species) originated in Africa during the Stone Age, between 30,000 and 280,000 years ago. The latest  in southern Africa have shown that technological innovation, linked to the emergence of culture and modern behaviour, took place abruptly: the beginnings of symbolic expression, the making of tools from stone and bone, jewellery or the first agricultural settlements.

An international team of researchers has linked these pulses of innovation to the climate that prevailed in sub-Saharan Africa in that period.

Over the last million years the  has varied between  (with great masses of ice covering the continents in the northern hemisphere) and interglacial periods, with changes approximately every 100,000 years. But within these long periods there have been abrupt climate changes, sometimes happening in the space of just a few decades, with variations of up to 10ºC in the average temperature in the polar regions caused by changes in the Atlantic . These changes affected rainfall in southern Africa.

The researchers have pieced together how  varied in southern Africa over the last 100,000 years, by analysing  deposits at the edge of the continent, where every millimetre of  corresponds to 25 years of sedimentation. The ratio of iron (dissolved from the rocks by the water during the rains) to potassium (present in arid soils) in each of the millimetre layers is a record of the sediment carried by rivers and therefore of the rainfall throughout the whole period.

The reconstruction of the rainfall over 100,000 years shows a series of spikes that occurred between 40,000 and 80,000 years ago. These spikes show rainfall levels rising sharply over just a few decades, and falling off again soon afterwards, in a matter of centuries. This research has shown that the climate changes coincided with increases in population, activity and production of technology on the part of our ancestors, as seen in the archaeological records. In turn, the end of certain stone tool industries of the period coincides with the onset of a new, drier climate.

The findings confirm one of the principal models of Palaeolithic cultural evolution, which correlates technological innovation with the adoption of new refuges and with a resulting increase in population and social networks. For these researchers, the bursts of demographic expansion caused by climate change in southern Africa were probably key factors in the origin of modern humans’ behaviour in Africa, and in the dispersal of Homo sapiens from his ancestral home.


Stone-tipped spears were being used for hunting 500,000 years ago

November 16, 2012

It is thought that wooden spears could have come into use as early as 5 million years ago since chimpanzees and orangutans have been observed using wooden spears and because the human – chimpanzee split is dated to around 8 million years ago.  Stone tipped spears however were thought to have come into use only around 300,000 years ago during the time of the Neanderthals. But a new paper in Science finds archaeological evidence from South Africa that stone spear tips were being used around 500,000 years ago.


Earliest evidence of the wheel? 7,500 year old toy “car” found

February 26, 2012
A stone car with two axles and 4 wheels dating from about 7,500 years ago has been found near the North Kurdish town of Qoser. It would seem to be earliest known evidence of a wheeled vehicle.

7,500 year old stone car from Qoser


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