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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Stone blades already 500,000 years ago.

at Remote Central, original news from Science Now.

This is a most interesting news and review for those of us who are interested in the formation of Humankind. In the past blade-making abilities were considered something somehow definitory of what meant to be Homo sapiens. Eventually blade tools associated with Neanderthals were discovered too and it was also acknowledged that many Sapiens cultures did not use blades altogether anyhow. The use of this technology is anyhow quite definitory of the Upper Paleolithic of West Eurasia.

Recent research anyhow has been pushing back this technology: to 380,000 in West Asia and 300,000 in Europe. Now the record of antiquity has been beaten by a discovery in Kenya that is dated to more than 500,000 years ago (509-543,000 BP)

The revealing artifacts

It must be mentioned that H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens are not that old, they are generally believed to be some 200,000 years old as species, maybe less in the case of H. sapiens.

So who made them? Apparently our direct ancestor Homo heidelbergensis, whose remains (sometimes described as H. rhodesiensis) have been found in the same part of the Kenyan formation. In the case of the later European blades it would be H. antecessor, the direct ancestor of Neanderthals, while it is not obvious who would be responsible for the West Asian ones, of intermediate age.

One factor that is anyhow underlined is the last dramatic expansion of brain size in the human lineage about 600,000 years ago, which may have been responsible for a major shift in human intelligence, allowing for more complex achievements among our ancestors and extinct relatives.

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