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Stone tool technology

Stone tool technology refers to a broad array of techniques and styles to produce usable tools from various types of stone. Stone tools and other artifacts offer evidence about how early humans made things, how they lived, how they interacted with their surroundings and evolved over time. The earliest stone tools known to archaeologists came from Eastern African sites and were between 2.0 and 3.0 million years old.


The archaeological record of stone tool technology is divided into three major time periods: the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age), Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age), and Neolithic (New or Late Stone Age). Not all cultures in all parts of the world exhibit the same pattern of lithic technological development, and stone tool technology continues to be used to this day, but these three time periods represent the span of the archaeological record when lithic technology was paramount.

Early Stone Age Tools: The earliest stone tool making developed by at least 3.0 million years ago. The Early Stone Age began with the most basic stone implements made by early humans. These stone tools are known as Oldowan and the main technologies include hammer stones, stone cores, and sharp stone flakes. By about 1.76 million years ago, early humans began to make Acheulean handaxes and other large cutting tools.

Middle Stone Age Tools: By 200,000 years ago, the pace of innovation in stone technology began to accelerate. Middle Stone Age stone technologies include points, which could be hafted on to shafts to make spears; stone awls, which could have been used to perforate hides; and scrapers that were useful in preparing hide, wood, and other materials.

Later Stone Age Tools: During the Later Stone Age, the pace of innovations rose. People experimented with diverse raw materials (bone, ivory, and antler, as well as stone), the level of craftsmanship increased, and different groups sought their own distinct cultural identity and adopted their own ways of making things.

The concept and origin of tool-use by humans initially derives from Charles Darwin in 1871. Darwin explains the advantage of bipedalism (a form of terrestrial locomotion where an organism moves by means of its two rear limbs or legs) is that it frees the hands from locomotion, thereby allowing them to be used for tool use, which in turn stimulates the evolution of many other derived characteristics of later humans and human related groups. This theory reached its highest influence after the American physical anthropologist, Sherwood Washburn in, proposed in 1960 bipedalism that allowed and/or was caused by tool use, which in turn favored canine reduction, hunting, and the evolution of a large brain. The idea of this concept is brain enlargement and the concomitant increase in intelligence led to the evolution of ever more sophisticated tools, which re-energized the feedback loop ? better tools led to enhanced bipedalism and a larger brain, etc. Ultimately, increased brain size and hunting behavior led to language and complex human social behavior.

However, this concept arrives at it demise after results of a concrete radiometric dating and new fossil discoveries. The new hominin fossil discoveries, dated to 6 to 7 million years, demonstrated that the earliest fossil hominins and inferred bipedal locomotion substantially pre-dated the earliest archaeologically visible stone tools ? dated to around 2.6 Ma ? by several million of years.

Spanning the past 2.6 million years, many thousands of archeological sites have been excavated, studied, and dated. These sites often consist of the accumulated remains from making and using stone tools. Because stone tools are less susceptible to destruction than bones, stone artifacts typically offer the best evidence of where and when early humans lived, their geographic dispersal and their ability to survive in a variety of habitats. But since multiple hominin species often existed at the same time, it can be difficult to determine which species made the tools at any given site.

Most importantly stone tools provide evidence about the technologies, dexterity, particular kinds of mental skills, and innovations that were within the grasp of early human toolmakers. Nowadays, archaeologists can understand past human behavior and their cognitive abilities by analyzing modern stone tool usage within an ethno-archaeological context.

In Eritrea, by about 1.0 million years ago the Buia human species had already pioneered highly complex technology. The density and variability of the stone tool industry from Buia is solid evidence. These lithic tools were employed to exploit high protein budget from a mammal bone and marrow, resulting in a rapid increase in brain size and change in the intestine gut and anatomy. The brain capacity of the Buia Homo is estimated around 750 to 800cm3. This capacity of intelligence enabled them to produce important technological innovation, which resulted in a better diet and energy. The Buia Homo had already mastered walking in an upright position (bipedalism), enabling them to see enemies in remote areas, and to spend less energy in order to walk longer distances, unlike the quadruped mammals. Generally, the Buia Homo was already a biped, large-brained, efficient stone tool-maker and meat-eater; characteristics that allow geographical movement and survival.

Approximately 200,000 years ago, Homo ergaster was replaced by Homo sapiens in this region. Homo sapiens are the species of present day humanity. During a time of dramatic climate change 200,000 years ago, Homo sapiens evolved in Africa. Like other early humans that were living at this time, they gathered and hunted food, and evolved behaviours that helped them to respond to the challenges of survival in unstable environments.

The shoreline of the Red Sea coast of the Buri Peninsula contains the earliest well-dated evidence of Homo sapiens in the Red Sea coastal environments, dated to 125, 000 years. This technological evidence was later followed by the Middle Stone Age and Late Stone Age stone tool technologies. Evidence of these have already been reported from sites on the coastal territories of the Red sea at the Gulf of Zula. These include, Abdur, Asfet, Gelealo NW and Misse East. These sites represent the most significant event of human evolution during the Pleistocene epoch. Around this time modern humans started to exploit marine resources and colonized the territories of the long coastal landscape of the Red Sea. These Prehistoric localities are testimony to ancient human settlements, dispersals and cultural interactions within the extended Red Sea Coast and the Arabian Peninsula.

A column prepared in collaboration with the Eritrea’s culture and sports commission

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