A series of articles has appeared across the web which may be of interest for those who dabble in the origins of human dominance across the planet.
1 - What made us human? Being ARMED with lethal ranged
2 - An early and enduring advanced technology originating 71,000 years
ago in South Africa
3 - Small lethal tools have big implications for early modern human complexity
4 - Humans made projectile weapons 71,000
While there is no substitute for reading the source material, I humbly offer a layman's synopsis of what the findings have shown, and what some
scientists speculate it may mean:
We have been almost continually looking to our past to learn about ourselves as a species on this planet, and the prevalent scientific dogma is best
There is consensus that the modern human lineage appeared in Africa before 100,000 years ago. But there is debate as to when cultural and
cognitive characteristics typical of modern humans first appeared, and the role that these had in the expansion of modern humans out of Africa.
Scientists rely on symbolically specific proxies, such as artistic expression, to document the origins of complex cognition. Advanced technologies
with elaborate chains of production are also proxies, as these often demand high-fidelity transmission and thus language. Some argue that advanced
technologies in Africa appear and disappear and thus do not indicate complex cognition exclusive to early modern humans in Africa. The origins of
composite tools and advanced projectile weapons figure prominently in modern human evolution research, and the latter have been argued to have been in
the exclusive possession of modern humans.
Excavations in the field had showed us that certain "microloiths" - small stone tools crafted by ancient humans - required a relatively complex
understanding of a production process. The microliths in question are pictured below:
What makes these microliths particularly noteworthy is the fact that in order to make them, each piece had to be heat treated in a certain way to
achieve the edge flaking necessary to make it sharp. These are distinct from the spearheads of the Neanderthals which while heavier, could not have
had the killing range of these South African spears.
Until now, the earliest examples of these light - heat treated - spear heads came from sites which had been excavated and shown to be around 60 to
65,000 years old. The find we are talking about here pushes that date back to 71,000 years... and since this strongly implies continuity of the
knowledge, it also conveys an inference... that for some 11,000 years, people taught each other how to do this.
Here we describe a previously unrecognized advanced stone tool technology ... on the south coast of South Africa, originating approximately 71,000
years ago. This technology is dominated by the production of small bladelets (microliths) primarily from heat-treated stone. There is agreement that
microlithic technology was used to create composite tool components as part of advanced projectile weapons. Microliths were common worldwide by the
mid-Holocene epoch, but have a patchy pattern of first appearance that is rarely earlier than 40,000 years ago, and were thought to appear briefly
between 65,000 and 60,000 years ago in South Africa and then disappear. Our research extends this record to ~71,000 years, shows that microlithic
technology originated early in South Africa, evolved over a vast time span (~11,000 years), and was typically coupled to complex heat treatment that
persisted for nearly 100,000 years.
Does this mean that there was a spoken language common to people at the time? Does it not also imply that there had to have developed some kind of
teaching culture to pass the knowledge on for thousands of years? It would appear that these primitives had developed significant social advances
where others did not.
“When Africans left Africa and entered Neanderthal territory they had projectiles with greater killing reach, and these early moderns probably
also had higher levels of pro-social (hyper-cooperative) behavior. These two traits were a knockout punch. Combine them, as modern humans did and
still do, and no prey or competitor is safe,” said Marean. “This probably laid the foundation for the expansion out of Africa of modern humans and
the extinction of many prey as well as our sister species such as Neanderthals.”
This might mean that part of what made humans quintessentially exceptional on the planet was the development of tools which extended our force far
beyond our physical reach. "Ranged" warfare could then develop, which might provide the impetus of developing some form of protective "armor" against
such encounters with other humans.
The researchers make no mention of the logical need for lighter pears in a coastal society which may have used them for fishing... where heavy spears
would be somewhat clumsy and ineffective. But the technology being present at such an early epoch surely shows that human ingenuity was not dormant
or underdeveloped even so long ago as 100,000 years.
On a personal note: The UK article from the Register is the only one to insert a superfluous editorial spin about gun control... which should provide
a smirk for anyone who sees what I see in what passes for "today's journalism."
edit on 8-11-2012 by Maxmars because: (no reason given)