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Tools                  2 Million BC
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

Africa

Scholars dispute whether any of the australopithecines used stone tools. Thier remains have been found with such tools but the association is ambiguous.(6)

A few sites in Africa have been shown to have stone tools that date to about 2 million years ago, including Koobi Fora, where crude stone tools appeaqr to be at least 2.3 million years old.(7)

Perhpas the best evidence for the early use of fire comes from temperate Africa, at Swartkrans in South Africa, in association with Homo erectus and dated to 1 million years ago, perhaps as early as 1.6 million years ago. Other possible evidence of fire comes from Chesowanya in Kenya, at about 1 million years ago. At sites of such great antiquity it is always difficult to show conclusively that people controilled the fire that is evident in the archaeological record.(13)

Brian Ludwig of Rutgers University studied 40,000 or so flint artifacts and the debris of tool-making, trying to determine if tool-making methods had remained static. He found dimples known as potlid fractures--fractures due to exposure to fire--on tools from 1.6 million years ago. So again, we have evidence that Homo erectus was a more intelligent being than any anthropologist had dared to suggest. (123)

H. erectus were probably the first hominids who really mastered hunting. Bifaces we're handheld, pear-shaped handaxes, mostly between 3.9 and 7.8 inches long; they were broad, relative to their thickness, and were probably used as a butchering tool. Erectus also increased the number of different tools in use, from scrapers to cleavers; and, significantly, for the first time an element of style creeps into tool manufacture. (142)

With this intellectual and technological leap forward, Erectus soon dominated most of Africa, marking the transition from early hominids being victimized by their environment to mastering it. Part of erectus' dominance over nature was his ability to control fire. It is uncertain as to when early humans first learned how to make fire, but a fossilized hearth at Swartkrans near Sterkfontein in South Africa proves that erectus at least knew how to control it as long ago as 1.1 million years. (142)

Acheulean sites were generally in valley bottoms or wetlands; they were terrain specialists, living in the riverine forests that traversed the plains. Acheulean tools are associated with Homo ergaster, erectus, and archaic sapiens, thus representing a tool type that spanned almost 1.5 million years of human evolution and three species of hominid. We classify the culture of the archaics as broadly within the Early Stone Age. The favorite implement was the hand ax, a technology that had existed virtually unchanged for the previous million years. Hand axes were in widespread use from Africa to southern Europe and as far east as India, indicating a widespread sharing of a basic knowledge. We believe that these large bifacial axes were handheld and were probably used as a butchering tool. (142)

Southwest Asia

 

Egypt

 

Indus Valley

 

China

 

Europe

 At a meeting of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, held on April 8, 1872, Edward Charlesworth, a Fellow of the Geological Society, showed many specimens of shark (Carcharodon) teeth, each with a hole bored through the center, as is done by South Seas islanders for the purpose of making weapons and necklaces. The teeth were recovered from eastern England's Red Crag formation, indicating an age of approximately 2.0-2.5 million years. ...Dr. Collyer gave his opinion in favor of human action. The record of the meeting stated: "He had carefully examined by aid of a powerful magnifying glass the perforated shark's teeth...The perforations, to his mind, were the work of man." Among his reasons were "the bevelled conditions of the edges of the perforations," "the central position of the holes in the teeth," and "the marks of artificial means employed in making the borings." (138)

At a scientific conference held in 1880, G. Bellucci, of the Italian Society for Anthropology and Geography, called attention to new discoveries in San Valentino and Castello delle Forme, near Perugia. These included animal bones bearing cuts and impact marks from stones implements, carbonized bones, and flint flakes. All were recovered from lacustrine Pliocene clays, characterized by a fauna like that of the classic Val d' Arno. According to Bellucci, these objects proved the existence of man in the Pliocene. (138)

In a report delivered to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1881, H. Stopes, F.G.S. (Fellow of the Geological Society), described a shell, the surface of which bore a carving of a crude but unmistakably human face. The carved shell was found in the stratified deposits of the Red Crag, which is between 2.0 and 2.5 million years old. Marie C. Stopes, the discoverer's daughter, argued in an article in The Geological Magazine (1912) that the carved shell could not have been a forgery: "It should be noted that the excavated features are as deeply coloured red-brown as the rest of the surface. This is an important point, because when the surface of Red Crag shells are scratched they show white below the colour. It should also be noticed that the shell is so delicate that any attempt to carve it would merely shatter it." (138)

Top: Stone implements from Olduvai Gorge. Bottom: Implements found by Benjamin Harrison on the Kent Plateau, England.

How old were the these Paleolithic tools? Prestwich and Harrison considered some of the stone implements found near Ightham to be Pliocene in age. Twentieth-century geologists, such as Francis H. Edmunds of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, have also said that the gravels in which many of the implements were found are Pliocene. Hugo Oberrnaier, a leading paleoanthropologist of the early twentieth century, stated that the flint implements collected by Harrison from the Kent Plateau belong to the Middle Pliocene. A Late or Middle Pliocene date for the implements of the Kent Plateau would give them an age of 2-4 million years. Unifacial tools, with regular chipping confined to one side of a surface, formed a large part of the eoliths gathered by Harrison. According to Patterson's criterion, these would have to be accepted as objects of human manufacture. (138)

Sling stones and bola stones represent a level of technological sophistication universally associated with modern Homo sapiens. It may be recalled that the detritus bed below the Red Crag contains fossils and sediments from habitable land surfaces ranging from Pliocene to Eocene in age. Therefore the Bramford sling stone could be anywhere from 2 to 55 million years old. A drawing (left) showing marks of intentional shaping on the sling stone from the beneath the Red Crag at Bramford, England. (138)

South America

 

Mesoamerica

 

North America

 

A small human image, skillfully formed in clay, was found in 1889 at Nampa, Idaho (left). The figurine came from the 300-foot level of a well boring. In 1912, G. F. Wright wrote: "The record of the well shows that in reaching the stratum from which the image was brought up they had penetrated first about fifty feet of soil, then about fifteen feet of basalt, and afterwards passed through alternate beds of clay and quicksand...down to a depth of about three hundred feet, when the sand pump began to bring up numerous clay balls, some of them more than two inches in diameter, densely coated with iron oxide. In the lower portion of this stratum there were evidences of a buried land surface, over which there had been a slight accumulation of vegetable mould. It was from this point that the image in question was brought up at a depth of three hundred and twenty feet. A few feet farther down, sand rock was reached." As for the figurine, Wright noted: "The image in question is made of the same material as that of the clay balls mentioned, and is about an inch and a half long; and remarkable for the perfection with which it represents the human form...It was a female figure, and had the lifelike lineaments in the parts which were finished that would do credit to the classic centers of art." Responding to our inquiries, the United States Geological Survey stated in a letter that the clay layer at a depth of over 300 feet is "probably of the Glenns Ferry Formation, upper Idaho Group, which is generally considered to be of Plio-Pleistocene age." The basalt above the Glenns Ferry formation is considered Middle Pleistocene. Other than Homo sapiens sapiens, no hominid is known to have fashioned works of art like the Nampa figurine. The evidence therefore suggests that humans of the modern type were living in America around 2 million years ago, at the Plio-Pleistocene boundary. (138)

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