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Tools                  30,000 BC
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

In General

The multiple ways in which Homo spaiens diverged physically and behaviorally from pre-sapiens forms of Homo in the period between about 300,000 years ago to 30,000 years ago are collectively referred to as the "Middle/Upper Paleolithic transition." This "transition" is visible in many radical changes, such as many technological innovations, including the bow and arrow, atlatl (throwing stick), bone and wood tools of diverse types, and techniques for extracting a relatively great amount of cutting edge from a given amount of stone.(18)

Surveys of the movement of raw materials for stone tools show that between the late Middle Palaeolithic and early Upper Palaeolithic the distribution of the distance of transfer shifted markedly, from virtually none being moved over 100 km to nearly half being exchanged over 200 km or more. In addition, there is evidence of seashells being moved over even greater distances. The importance of this emerging activity is not simply a matter of acquiring material goods but is a measure of the increasing sophistication of palaeolithic societies between 40 and 30 kya: the purpose of exchange was to develop social contacts. (145)

26,000 BC First known 'factory' (160)

The spear-thrower was an innovation of the Upper Paleolithic. This tool is an elongated, hooked handle that attaches to the butt of a spear and effectively increases the length of the arm of the person throwing the spear. Spear-throwers date back to as much as 30,000 years ago. The bearers of this technology certainly had an advantage in the hunt over those who needed to get much closer to large, dangerous animals in order to successfully spear them. (170)

Africa

 

Southwest Asia

 

Egypt

 

Indus Valley

 

China

 

Europe

 

European toolkits, 35,000 to 11,000 years ago. The increasingly diversified economies of the late Pleistocene are reflected in increasingly diverse and sophisticated tool kits compared to earlier periods.(21)

Reindeer antlers were the hammers, or the "batons" used to produce the long elegant blades for which these people are justly famous; and reindeer bone was the raw material for fish gorges, needles, awls, and other important tools.(24)

Tools and tool types of the Aurignacian culture displayed standardization. Over time, they included end scrapers for preparing animal skins and burins for engraving. Flint tools were made from blades of stone rather than flakes. Projectile points (for hunting) were made from antler, bone, and ivory. Among their significant innovations was the development of body ornamentation, including pierced shells, animal teeth, carved bone pendants, bracelets, and ivory beads. The sudden explosion of exquisite art found at the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc cave was certainly among their most striking achievements. (70)

"...they're making cordage," said David Hyland, an archaeologist at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. Cordage, essentially plant fibers twisted together, includes string and rope. The model of the Paleolithic men going off with spears to hunt while the women stayed home and gathered plants around the camp may be too simple, he said. "Maybe they killed one mammoth every ten years and never stopped talking about it," Dr. Soffer said. At the Pavlov and nearby Dolni Vestonice sites, for example, Dr. Klima unearthed far more bones of smaller animals than of mammoths. While the former may have been hunted with spears, it is more likely that nets were used to capture small animals like rabbits, the archaeologists said. "This tool," noted Dr. Hyland, of cloth, "represents a much greater level of success where used for hunting than lithic tools." (83)

Whereas Neanderthals obtained their raw materials within a few miles of home, Cro-Magnons and their contemporaries throughout Europe practiced long-distance trade, not only for raw materials of tools but also for "useless" ornaments. Tools of high-quality stone such as obsidian, jasper, and flint are found hundreds of miles from where those stones were quarried. Baltic amber reached southeast Europe, while Mediterranean shells were carried to inland parts of France, Spain, and the Ukraine. I saw very similar patterns in modern Stone Age New Guinea, where cowry shells prized as decorations were traded up to the highlands from the coast, bird-of-paradise plumes were traded back down to the coast, and obsidian for stone axes was traded out from a few highly valued quarries. (114)

The second stage is 'Gravettian', a term that has been associated with the next obvious step forward in stone tool technology, which dates from 29 to 22 kya. This group appears to have moved into Europe between 30 and 35 kya, either from the Trans-Caucasus region beyond the Black Sea, or possibly from farther afield to east of the Caspian Sea. During the LGM the Aurignacian culture became restricted to refuges around the Pyrenees and the Ukraine, while the Gravettian culture survived in the Balkans. From these refugia came the people who were to repopulate Europe at the end of the ice age, and who are the ancestors of most modemrn Europeans. (145)

One of the most remarkable features of the last ice age is the success of living on the plains of Russia. While northwestern Europe became uninhabitable during the LGM, in Russia occupation of a number of sites from the River Don to eastern Siberia appears to have continued unabated. An archaeological site on the Aldan River, a tributary of the Lena in eastern Siberia, was occupied by a possible ancestor group to palaeo-Arctic people of North America. The people who lived in Dyuktai Cave were hunter-gatherers and fishers and used triangular stone points that have become known as the 'Dyuktai culture'. Occupation levels have been dated between 33 and 10 kya...(145)

Farther south at Kostenki on the Don River about 400 km south of Moscow, where a series of more than 20 sites have been excavated, there is evidence of occupation by modern humans back to around 40 kya. Recent excavations have yielded bone and ivory needles with eyelets, dating from 30 kya. In addition, the research team uncovered neatly articulated bones of both arctic foxes and hares at the site. These discoveries suggest that residents of Kostenki had developed trapping techniques to obtain furs, which they sewed together to produce more effective clothing that would help keep them warmer in the winters. (145)

In Western Europe...the Aurignacian tradition consisted of a specific set of tools that included retouched blades, engraving tools called burins, and stone scrapers, and it is dated to between 34,000 BP and 27,000 BP. From 27,000 BP to 21,000BP the Gravettian tradition delveloped, with its emphasis on smaller blades and denticulate knifes. The Solutrean tradtition, dated from 21,000 BP to 16,000BP, is the most striking of all, characterized by finely made, bifacially flaked, symmetrical, leaf-shaped projectile points. Solutrean points are amoung the most finely made stone tools ever found. The Solutrean was followed by the Magdelanian, from 16,000 BP to 11,000 BP, when the emphasis was not on stone tools at all but rather on bone and antler, with the attendant production of microblades. (170)

South America

 

Mesoamerica

 

North America

 Projectile point from Level III of the Sheguiandah site (left), Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. Between 1951 and 1955, Thomas E. Lee, an anthropologist at the National Museum of Canada, carried out excavations at Sheguiandah, on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron. How old were the tools? Three of the four geologists who studied the site thought the tools were from the last interglacial. This would make them from 75,000 to 125,000 years old. Finally, in a joint statement, all four geologists compromised on a "minimum" age of 30,000 years. (138)

Other

 Farther east, there is evidence that modern humans had lived in Japan from about 30 kya, based on dating their flint tools. All four main Japanese islands were connected, and the southern island of Kyushu was connected to the Korean peninsula while the northern island of Hokkaido was linked to Siberia. These people appear to have survived the ice age and then around 12 kya developed a unique culture, which lasted for several thousand years. Their culture is known as 'Jomon', which means 'cord pattern', to describe the design of the pottery that these people produced - the earliest in human history. What is remarkable is that the Jomon were still a hunting, gathering and fishing society, living in small groups, when they developed this advanced technology. Furthermore, they also fashioned ceramic figurines. (145)