Saturday 14 July 2012

Stone Age tools uncovered in Yemen point to humans leaving Africa and inhabiting Arabia perhaps as far back as 63,000 years ago, according to Anne Delagnes of Université Bordeaux. The archaeologists have been studying the site of Shi'bat Dihya located in a wadi, or gully, that connects Yemen's highlands to the coastal plains of the Red Sea.
      The age of the site puts it at a time when early modern humans were thought to be first emigrating from Eastern Africa to the rest of the world. "The Arabian Peninsula is routinely considered as the corridor where migrating East African populations would have passed during a single or multiple dispersal events," says the study. "It has also been suggested that the groups who colonized South Asia rapidly expanded from South and East Africa along the Arabian coastlines around 60 ka BP (60,000 years ago), bringing with them a modern behavioural package including microlithic (stone) backed tools, ostrich-eggshell beads or engraved fragments. However, this scenario is not supported by any hard archaeological evidence from the Arabian Peninsula. Up until recently, the absence of stratified contexts (archaeological sites) from the entirety of the region has rendered issues concerning the timing and trajectories of the earliest expansions of modern humans into the region largely theoretical."

Read the full story here
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Tuesday 10 July 2012

NPL analyses surface wear on stone tools

Innovative research by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the University of Bradford used laser microscopes to explore how stone tools were used in prehistory, and the process has helped streamline surface measurement techniques for modern manufacturers.
     Archaeologists at the University of Bradford hypothesised that reconstructing past activities was the best way to study what each tool was used for. They proposed to measure the surface structures of replica stone tools before and after they were used in different reconstructions on two natural materials - antler and wood.
     NPL conducted surface measurement investigations on the replica tools using a confocal microscope to create a map of . Richard Leach, who led the work at NPL, said: "We measured the surfaces of each tool using a to create a map of its surface structure. Optical measurements create 3D constructions of each surface recorded without physically contacting the surface."

Read the full story here:

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Monday 12 March 2012

New find of Palaeolithic tools in India

In an 'incredibly significant find', archaeologists have discovered prehistoric remains at a river bank in Chhattisgarh’s Sarguja district, indicating continued settlements in the area from prehistoric to late medieval period.
     The tools and artefacts were found during exploration survey by archaeological department of Chhattisgarh government in January this year on the banks of river Renuka (called Renu by locals) in Mahespur area, nearly 40 km from district headquarters town of Ambikapur and around 350 km from Raipur.
     “We have discovered earliest stone age tools on the banks of river Renu. This is an incredibly significant find, since this is the first time Palaeolithic (stone age) tools have been discovered in Chhattisgarh. The remains, retrieved from Mahespur, also establishes for the first time a continuance cultural sequence from prehistoric to late medieval period,” archaeologist Atul Kumar Pradhan said on Sunday.

For full story go to:-

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Tuesday 28 February 2012

Stone Age Europeans discovered America

New archaeological evidence suggests that America was first discovered by Stone Age people from Europe – 10,000 years before the Siberian-originating ancestors of the American Indians set foot in the New World.
     A remarkable series of several dozen European-style stone tools, dating back between 19,000 and 26,000 years, have been discovered at six locations along the US east coast. Three of the sites are on the Delmarva Peninsular in Maryland, discovered by archaeologist Dr Darrin Lowery of the University of Delaware. One is in Pennsylvania and another in Virginia. A sixth was discovered by scallop-dredging fishermen on the seabed 60 miles from the Virginian coast on what, in prehistoric times, would have been dry land.
     The similarity between other later east coast US and European Stone Age stone tool technologies has been noted before. But all the US European-style tools, unearthed before the discovery or dating of the recently found or dated US east coast sites, were from around 15,000 years ago - long after Stone Age Europeans (the Solutrean cultures of France and Iberia) had ceased making such artefacts. Most archaeologists had therefore rejected any possibility of a connection. But the newly-discovered and recently-dated early Maryland and other US east coast Stone Age tools are from between 26,000 and 19,000 years ago - and are therefore contemporary with the virtually identical western European material.
     Read the full story in the Independent here:-

Visit The Stone Age Tools Museum here

Friday 3 February 2012

Dr. Douglas Bamforth will speak about the Mahaffy Cache, a collection of 83 artifacts discovered in 2008 beneath Patrick Mahaffy's front yard in Boulder, Colo., during a landscaping project. The 13,000-year-old tools were made from raw materials originated from the Uintah Mountains in northeastern Utah to Middle Park in the central Rocky Mountains. Bamforth will present about the discovery, the details of its analysis, and its implications for what we know about the earliest occupants of North America. The free program will be held at the Estes Park Museum, this Saturday, Feb. 4, beginning at 2 p.m. No reservations are necessary.

Read the full story here

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Friday 16 December 2011

Archaeological report on palaeolithic vessel found on Mount Ararat

Harvard University educated archaeologist and director of the Paleontological Research Corporation, Dr. Joel Klenck, surveyed the site of an ancient vessel found on Mount Ararat in Turkey, analyzed the archaeological remains and completed a comparative study. “The site is remarkable”, states Klenck, “and comprises a large all-wood structure with an archaeological assemblage that appears to be mostly from the Late Epipaleolithic Period.” These assemblages at other sites in the Near East have calibrated radiocarbon dates between 13,100 and 9,600 B.C. Located at elevations above 4,200 meters on Mount Ararat and covered by layers of ice and stones, he states: “The site is wonderfully preserved, exhibits a wide array of plant materials including structures made of cypress and one room with a floor covered by chickpea seeds.” Klenck additionally notes, “I was most impressed by the artifactual assemblage, particularly the basalt bowls, stone cores and debitage.”

Full story here:
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Tuesday 13 December 2011

Mining operations threaten Zimbabwe's stone age archaeology

These mining operations are a threat not only to Zimbabwe’s wildlife but also to its cultural and archeological resources. This mine between Sinamatella and Bumbusi camp is within a few kilometers of the Bumbusi Ruins, which is a national monument.  In addition to the stone ruins, where Late Stone Age tools have been found, there are unusual sandstone engravings. In recent years National Museums and Monuments have undertaken an excavation in the area and it is believed there are many more archeological finds to be made – unless they are destroyed during bush clearing and mining.

Full story here:

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Sunday 11 December 2011

Neolithic site discovered in Staffordshire

Experts believe they have found evidence of a 4,000-year-old Stone Age camp in the Midlands - thanks to a dog walker. Roger Hall discovered a handful of strange-shaped rocks while walking his dog in Cannock Wood, Staffordshire (England), but experts have identified them as flint 'flakes' - the off-cuts from tools crafted by Stone Age Man.

"If confirmed, they could mark the spot of the only Neolithic camp known in our region," says Roger Knowles, a member of the Council for British Archaeology. He is convinced that buried beneath the grassland is a link between the period when mankind changed from nomadic hunter-gatherer to village dweller.

Fulle story here

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Thursday 1 December 2011

Implements found in Arabian desert change ideas on "Out of Africa"

Newly discovered stone artifacts in the Arabian desert suggest humans left Africa traveling inland, not along the coasts, as long thought according to reports. 

Modern humans first arose about 200,000 years ago in Africa. When and how our lineage then dispersed has long proven controversial, but geneticists have suggested this exodus started between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago. The currently accepted theory is that the exodus from Africa traced Arabia's shores, rather than passing through its now-arid interior.

However, stone artifacts at least 100,000 years old from the Arabian Desert, revealed in January 2011, hinted that modern humans might have begun our march across the globe earlier than once suspected.

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Thursday 10 November 2011

Treasure trove of Palaeolithic tools unearthed in India

A team of scientists largely from the Anthropological Survey of India has unearthed a trove of Stone Age tools from caves  that offer evidence of human habitation in the region some 50,000 years ago.

The quality of the findings, according to the scientists, suggests that these caves could be as important as the rock paintings in the caves of Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh—a UNESCO Heritage site dating back to 30,000 years ago, the earliest and most visceral evidence of habitation by human and human-ancestors in India so far.

The tools, described in a paper in the latest issue of the Current Science journal, are an assortment of axes, cleavers, picks and choppers similar to implements found in other parts of Asia and Europe during the so-called Palaeolithic period (spanning nearly 2.5 million to 10,000 years before today).

Read the full story here:-
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Saturday 15 October 2011

Thousands of stone age tools found in China

Archaeologists have unearthed thousands of stone implements dating back about 40,000 to 70,000 years in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Archaeologists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Erdos Bronzeware Museum started excavating an area in the basin of the Ulan Mulun River in April, discovering more than 4,200 stone implements, including stone flakes, saw-shaped tools and remnant stones, according to Hou Yamei, the leader of the excavation team.

The river is a seasonal river near the city of Erdos and is believed to have been a primary location for stone tool production in ancient times, Hou said.

Read more here:-

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Saturday 3 September 2011

Oldest hand axes found in Kenya

Acheulian flint hand axes unearthed at Kenya’s Kokiselei site date to 1.76 million years ago, slightly older than previous finds, say geologist Christopher Lepre of Rutgers University and his colleagues. Carefully shaped, double-edged hand axes and picks lay among much simpler tools — sharp flakes pounded off stones — at Kokiselei, the scientists report in the Sept. 1 Nature.

These finds underscore suspicions that stone flakes used as chopping devices, early tools known as the Oldowan industry, did not get supplanted by hand-ax making, Lepre says. Instead, the more complex Acheulian devices emerged while Oldowan implements — which first appeared about 2.6 million years ago in the same region — were still popular, although it’s unclear how long the two types of tools were used simultaneously at Kokiselei. Hand axes and other double-edged tools typify the Acheulian industry.

Read further details here:

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Friday 26 August 2011

Interbreeding with Neanderthals boosted modern human immune system

A new study, published in Science, says that humans interbreeding with Neanderthals could have boosted the modern human immune system.

Modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans all share a common ancestor in Africa. These populations split up about 400,000 years ago in distinct groups. One went northwest, giving rise to the Neanderthal lineage, another one went northeast, forming the root of the Denisovan lineage, and the third one stayed in Africa. For a while, at least. Several hundreds of thousands of years later, the African population expanded into Eurasia, meeting their evolutionary cousins.

Full story here:-

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Friday 12 August 2011

Stone Age people were tunnellers claims German scientist

Stone Age man created a massive network of underground tunnels criss-crossing Europe from Scotland to Turkey, a new book on the ancient superhighways has claimed. German archaeologist Dr Heinrich Kusch said evidence of the tunnels has been found under hundreds of Neolithic settlements all over the continent.

In his book - Secrets Of The Underground Door To An Ancient World - he claims the fact that so many have survived after 12,000 years shows that the original tunnel network must have been enormous.

Read the full story here:-

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Sunday 19 June 2011

Gobekli Tepe: The World’s First Temple? 11,000 years old?

German archaeologist, Klaus Schmidt, has excavated a massive prehistoric structure in Turkey that may be 11,000 years old and could be the world's first temple, according to The Smithsonian Magazine.

Six miles from Urfa, an ancient city in southeastern Turkey, Klaus Schmidt has excavated massive carved stones crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery. The megaliths predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years. The place is called Gobekli Tepe, and Schmidt, a German archaeologist who has been working here more than a decade, is convinced it's the site of the world's oldest temple.

Read more:

Friday 17 June 2011

Toolmaking humans may have evolved earlier than thought

According to an article in Scientific American , Reid Ferring, an anthropologist at the University of North Texas in Denton, and his colleagues excavating the Dmanisi site in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia, found stone artifacts--mostly flakes that were dropped as hominins knapped rocks to create tools for butchering animals--lying in sediments almost 1.85 million years old. Until now, anthropologists have thought that H. erectus evolved between 1.78 million and 1.65 million years ago--after the Dmanisi tools would have been made.

The full story is here:-

Saturday 7 May 2011

Archaeologists have found what they say is the earliest evidence of Neanderthals living in Britain. Two pieces of flint unearthed at motorway works in Dartford, Kent, have now been dated to 110,000 years ago.
     The finds push back the presence of Neanderthals in Britain by 40,000 years or more, said Dr Francis Wenban-Smith, from Southampton University.
     A majority of researchers believe Britain was uninhabited by humans at the time the flint tools were made.
An absence of archaeological evidence suggests people abandoned this land between 200,000 years ago (or 160,000 years ago, depending on who you ask) and 65,000 years ago.

Read the full story here:
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Tuesday 12 April 2011

Humans made tools 3.4 million years ago says Nature

Researchers have found evidence that hominins - early human ancestors - used stone tools to cleave meat from animal bones more than 3.2 million years ago. That pushes back the earliest known tool use and meat-eating in such hominins by more than 800,000 years.
     Bones found in Ethiopia show cuts from stone and indications that the bones were forcibly broken to remove marrow.  The research, in the journal Nature, challenges several notions about our ancestors' behaviour.
     Previously the oldest-known use of stone tools came from the nearby Gona region of Ethiopia, dating back to about 2.5 million years ago. That suggests that it was our more direct ancestors, members of our own genus Homo, that were the first to use tools.
     But the marked bones were found in the Dikika region, with their age determined by dating the nearby volcanic rock - to between 3.2 million and 3.4 million years ago.
     Tests showed that the cuts, scrapes and scratches were made before the bones fossilised, and detailed analysis even showed that there were bits of stone lodged in one of the cuts.
     Full story here

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Stone age tools from India are up to 1.5 million years old

Archaeologists have discovered India`s oldest stone-age tools, up to 1.5 million years old, at a pre-historic site near Chennai, southern India, the Kolkata-based daily The Telegraph reported on Friday.

     The discovery may change existing ideas about the earliest arrival of human ancestors from Africa into India, the report said.
     A team of Indian and French archaeologists has used two dating methods to show that the stone hand-axes and cleavers from Attirampakkam are at least 1.07 million years old, and could date as far back as 1.5 million years, said the report.
     In nearly 12 years of excavation, archaeologists Shanti Pappu and Kumar Akhilesh from the Sharma Center for Heritage Education, Chennai, have found 3,528 artifacts that are similar to the prehistoric tools discovered in western Asia and Africa, it added.

More here:

Sunday 13 March 2011

World's oldest calendar?

The world's first calendar may be an eagle bone with rows of 14 or 15 notches made 30,000 years ago and found at Le Placard on the Dordogne River near Le Eyzies, France. The bone contains 69 mysterious marks and notches, including circles, crescents, arc and ear-shapes, that appear to be in synch with the phases of the moon. Fourteen and 15 days are roughly the interval between a new moon and a full moon. Some have suggested it may have helped women keep track of the menstrual cycle. Others say it may have been tabulating device Skeptic say it may just be a bone with a lot of scratches on it.

Read the full story here:-

Friday 11 March 2011

The First Farmers: Older Than You Think

A fascinating and informative article by by John Koster relates several interesting episodes from the early study and discovery of Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeology.  Specially interesting is his mention of the discovery of Catal Hüyük in what is now Turkey, flourishing around 7,500 B.C. before farming became well extablished in the Fertile Crescent.

Read Koster's full story here:-

Saturday 5 March 2011

Early stone tools in California

A new study in the Journal Science reports that scores of stemmed projectile points and crescents found on California’s Channel Islands suggest that people who depended on a sea economy arrived in the Americas very early, possibly by a coastal route.
     The artifacts, likely made by inhabitants between 12,200 to 11,400 years ago, are associated with the remains of shellfish, seals, geese, cormorants, and fish.  The study team also found thousands of artifacts made from chert, a flint-like rock used to make projectile points and other stone tools.
     Some of the intact projectiles are so delicate that their only practical use would have been for hunting on the water, says Jon Erlandson, professor of anthropology at the University of Oregon. He has been conducting research on the islands for more than 30 years.
     “This is among the earliest evidence of seafaring and maritime adaptations in the Americas, and another extension of the diversity of Paleoindian economies,” Erlandson says. “The points we are finding are extraordinary, the workmanship amazing. They are ultra thin, serrated, and have incredible barbs on them. It’s a very sophisticated chipped-stone technology.”

Full story here:-

Thursday 4 November 2010

Stone age tools required greater brain power claims study

I'm filing this story in my 'dodgy dossier' drawer along with aromatherapy-crystal-dowsing and Alastair Campbell's Iraq-WMD file, but I report it here in the interests of completeness.

Stone Age humans were only able to develop relatively advanced tools after their brains evolved a greater capacity for complex thought, according to a new study that investigates why it took early humans almost two million years to move from razor-sharp stones to a hand-held stone axe. Researchers used computer modelling and tiny sensors embedded in gloves to assess the complex hand skills that early humans needed in order to make two types of tools during the Lower Palaeolithic period, which began around 2.5 million years ago. The cross-disciplinary team, involving researchers from Imperial College London, employed a craftsperson called a flintnapper to faithfully replicate ancient tool-making techniques.

Read the full story here:-

Monday 1 November 2010

UK's oldest home shows evidence of carpentry

A team of archaeologists from the Universities of Manchester and York have reported that a home excavated in Yorkshire dates to at least 8,500 BC - when Britain was still part of continental Europe.The research team unearthed the 3.5 metres circular structure next to an ancient lake at Star Carr, near Scarborough, a site comparable in archaeological importance to Stonehenge. The team is currently excavating a large wooden platform next to the lake, made of timbers which have been split and hewn. The platform is the earliest evidence of carpentry in Europe.

Read the full story in Science Daily here:-

Sunday 31 October 2010

Stone age people painted their homes

Mesolithic people 5,000 years ago brightened up their Stone Age homes by painting the insides, according to new archaeological evidence. They used red, yellow and orange pigments from ground-up minerals and bound it with animal fat and eggs to make their paint.  It is the earliest ever example of man using paint to decorate their properties in Britain, if not in Europe.

Read the full story here:-

Saturday 30 October 2010

Pressure flaking from Africa 75,000 years ago

Pressure flaking originated not in Europe, but in Africa some 75,000 years ago in the Palaelithic period.  That is the finding of new research by a team from University of Colorado.  The technique of pressure-flaking, which scientists previously thought was invented in Europe some 20,000 years ago, involves using an animal bone or some other object to exert pressure near the edge of a stone piece and precisely carve out a small flake.
Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder examined stone tools dating from the Middle Stone Age, some 75,000 years ago, from Blombos Cave in what is now South Africa.

Read the full story on here:-

Friday 22 October 2010

Stone tools prove humans emerged early from Africa

An Oxford research team has reported new findings of stone age tools that suggest humans came "out of Africa" by land earlier than has been thought.

Geneticists estimate that migration from Africa to South-East Asia and Australia took place as recently as 60,000 years ago.
But Dr Michael Petraglia, of Oxford University, and colleagues say stone artefacts found in the Arabian Peninsula and India point to an exodus starting about 70,000 to 80,000 years ago - and perhaps even earlier.
The full story is on the BBC news site here:-

BBC's History of the World in 100 objects

Like many others, I have been fascinated and inspired by the BBC's History of the World in 100 objects, produced in partnership with the British Museum.  Needless to say, I was excited when the very first object turned out to be a beautiful early palaeolithic hand axe.

I was even more delighted when I visited the BBC website devoted to the project and discovered that members of the public were also invited to post their own objects of importance, so I posted up a picture of a particularly nice acheulian hand axe that I found in Medway terrace gravels at Ayelsford in Kent.

You can view the axe on my site, The Stone Age Tools Museum, at  and on the BBC site here:-

New interpretation of Sweden in the Stone Age

The Falbygden area of central Västergötland in southwestern Sweden is home to one of northern Europe's greatest concentrations of megalithic graves from the New Stone Age (approx. 4000-1500 BC). A new archaeology thesis from the University of Gothenburg now shows that these “passage graves” were not designed to be visible across wide areas – instead they seem to be almost hidden within the landscape.

     Tony Axelsson, doctoral student and archaeologist at the Västergötland Museum, has investigated what the Stone Age landscape in Falbygden actually looked like, and how the people of the time related to their surroundings.
     Read the full story here:-

Thursday 21 October 2010

Stone age people ground and ate flour 20,000 years before farming began

Humans in the palaeolithic period ground and ate flour 20,000 years before farming began according to new investigations. Flour residues recovered from 30,000-year-old grinding stones found in Italy, Russia and the Czech Republic point to widespread processing and consumption of plant grain, according to a paper published online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The full story is here in Archaeology Daily News.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Did Neanderthals make jewellery?

A new study by Oxford University's carbon dating lab has cast doubt on the idea that Neanderthal humans may have made jewellery.  The study suggests that the ornaments discovered in France's Grotte du Rennes may be from many different time periods and not merely from the Neanderthal period, 30,000 to 40,000 years ago.

However, Francesco D'Errico of Bordeaux University still believes the site shows that Neanderthals made decorative jewels. The full story is in the latest The Arachaeology News Network here;

And there is further coverage in the current New Scientist here:-

Wednesday 13 October 2010

North African stone age tools 40,000 years earlier than thought

The "Aterian" stone tool technology and cultural group was originally thought to date to the period from 40,000 to 20,000 years before the present. However, more recent scientific technologies have been used to re-examine the stone tools and have pushed back the time horizon for this technology of stone tool making to a much older range: from 85,000 to 40,000 years of age.
This information come from F. Scott Crawford, editor and publisher of the monthly e-magazine "Arrowhead Collecting On The Web".

The full story is here:-

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Ancient stone from Olduvai

Inspired by the BBC programme "A history of the world in 100 objects"  Martin Budden visited the British Museum. He was particularly interested in seeing two objects from the cradle of humanity, the Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania: the Olduvai stone chopping tool (made 1.8 million years ago) and the Olduvai handaxe (made 1.2 – 1.4 million years ago).

Monday 11 October 2010

Stone age tools on show in Massachusetts Sunday 17th October

People in the Massachusetts town of Ashland, between Boston and Worcester, will be able to see stone age tools and weapons at first hand this Sunday, 17th October.  Aspiring Stone Age hunters can learn at the Ashland Historical Society how their ancient predecessors once managed to bring down the likes of mastodons for dinner.
     Guest experts Bob Berg and Jeff Gottlieb will explain, demonstrate and lead hands-on work with the atlatl, a prehistoric spear-launching weapon that predates the bow and arrow.
     They also will teach participants about other primitive arts, such as starting a fire with a hand drill or making rope from hemp, flax or milkweed.
     Read the full sgtory here:-

Thursday 7 October 2010

Neanderthals were compassionate

According to new research at York University, Neanderthals were compassionate people. The team's findings showed that the injured and infirm were routinely cared for in this period. The researchers examined archaeological evidence for clues as to the way in which emotions began to develop in our ancestors.

Analysis of remains showed that a child with a serious brain abnormality was not abandoned, but lived until it was five or six years old.  And a Neanderthal who had a withered arm, deformed feet and was blind in one eye was taken care of for perhaps as long as 20 years.

Read more:

Friday 17 September 2010

Humans used fire to heat treat tools 72,000 years ago

Stone age humans used fire to heat treat rocks and make them more suitable for toolmaking at least 72,000 years ago, acoording to new research in South Africa - some 50,000 years earlier than previously believed.

According to  Doctoral student Kyle Brown, who led the research at the University of Cape Town in South Africa: ''Our illumination of the heat treatment process shows that these early modern humans commanded fire in a nuanced and sophisticated manner.

''We show that early modern humans at 72,000 years ago, and perhaps as early as 164,000 years ago in coastal South Africa, were using carefully controlled hearths in a complex process to heat stone and change its properties, the process known as heat treatment.''

Previously, the first use of heat treatment was thought to have been in Europe 25,000 years ago. The technique was not believed to have been invented until long after the ancestors of modern humans had left Africa and settled in Europe and Asia.

Read the story in full in The Daily Telegraph here:-

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Early stone age people in Britain almost 1 million ago

According to an article in tomorrow's Nature magazine, new evidence suggests humans visited Britain even earlier than previously thought - as much as almost a million years ago.  The full article is in Nature Magazine downloadable here:-  .   

Investigations by the team working at Happisborough on the Norfolk coast have shown that the early palaeolithic implements discovered there are between 800,000 and 1,000,000 years old, making it one of the oldest sites of human occupation in Europe.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Australian archaeologists discover 40,000 year old implements

Australian archaeologists have uncovered what they believe to be the world's southernmost site of early human life, a 40,000-year-old tribal meeting ground, according to AFP. The find came during an archaeological survey ahead of roadworks near Tasmania's Derwent River and soil dating had established the age of the artefacts found there.

Read the full story here.

Sunday 21 February 2010

New National Geographic coverage of Crete hand axes

National Geographic has published some further coverage on the amazing find of palaeolithic hand axes on the island of Crete - suggesting that early palaeolithic humans conquered the sea far earlier than previously thought. The NG article can be found here:

Thursday 18 February 2010

Stone Age Artefacts on Crete are evidence for early marine exploration

The New York Times has reported a fascinating discovery on the Island of Crete. Researchers have found Acheulian culture palaeolithic hand axes which they have dated as being at least 130,000 years old.  But Crete has been an island for 5 millions years, so the toolmakers must have arrived by boat.

Previously, the earliest evidence for stone age marine voyages was that of the sea crossing to Australia of humans beginning aroiund 60,000 years ago, so the new finds push back to history of marine exploration by a  long stretch.

The full story is here:-

Wednesday 13 January 2010

An extraordinary 'Stone Age' modern man

I've recently learned the most extraordinary story about an American indian named "Ishi", the last of his tribe, who came out of the wilderness in California in 1911 and lived the rest of his life until 1916 at the University of California Museum of Anthropology in San Francisco.  While he lived there, he gave demonstrations of his native skills in making flint implements, bows and arrows, and in making shelters, making fire and so on.  There are more details of his story here:-

What is especially interesting about Ishi is that he lived essentially a Mesolithic-style life as a hunter-gatherer.  He was a stone age man, projected into the twentieth century and he adapted remarkably well to modern life.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Pot Boilers

Occasionally when you are walking through a field, you come across flints that have been in a fire - they have a characteristic light blue-grey colour and their surface is crazed like the glaze on old plates.

The usual explanation for these flints is that they are "pot boilers" - stones placed into the fire to heat up and then transferred to a pot of water to boil it.  On long winter evenings at Archaeological Society meetings in Victorian times, members would argue endlessly about whether this or that newly-found rock could be a pot boiler - this may be one of the sources for the phrase's modern idiomatic meaning of endless and pointless rumination about a subject of little or no real merit.

No doubt this is one way to heat water, though not a very efficient one.  But I wonder if the the many burned flints could represent some other activity?  It has been seriously suggested that they might be the remain of a prehistoric saua bath!  Heating flints can certainly alter their brittle qualities as a material so perhaps they wre experiments at "annealing" the stone.

Saturday 19 December 2009

My latest find - a Neolithic arrowhead

In the parts of Hampshire and West Sussex that I visit most often, I usually find Mesolithic flints - lots of them!  Rarely, I find Paleolithic implements.  Now, I've found a Neolithic arrow head to add to my finds (pictured below).

 It's probably an isolated later flint rather than evidence of settlement, but it's nice to know that the area where I live has been occupied on and off for tens of thousands of years.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Those dreadful Stone Age people

You know those Stone Age people we keep hearing about? The really thick ones whose language is a series of grunts, and who carry a club with which to hit women over the head and drag them back to their cave? The ones who keep inventing the square wheel in the cartoons?

This is a picture of the kind of thing they were making as arrow heads about 8,000 years ago, with nothing more to work with than pieces of flint and their bare hands.

Were they not truly a most remarkable people?

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Britain's Drowned World - Time Team Special

Did you catch the truly fabulous Time Team Special "Britain's Drowned World" on Channel 4 at the weekend?  Don't worry if you didn't because you can watch in online at

It gives a fascinating and detailed picture of the Mesolithic period in Britain and what happened as the climate warmed, the glaciers melted and the land connecting Britain to the continent was inundated.  Lots of detail on implements and fossil finds.  Specially fascinating was the undersea geomagnetic survey of the north sea which showed the outlines of the major river that was once the Thames and Rhine linked.

Do catch it if you can.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

A tricky question of conservation ethics

I've often had the good luck to find discarded flint cores when field walking and have quite a collection but I've only very, very rarely seen anything that looked like it might be a hammerstone, and even then the evidence is usually ambiguous.  But this week I picked up the tool pictured and I can't see what else it could be other than some form of purpose designed hammer.

It's a good weight, easy to handle, and the point has been crushed by hundreds of small blows until blunt. I wonder if it might have been intended to be re-sharpened once it became blunt, unlike a pebble which has to be thrown away. (It's almost certainly Mesolithic, by the way.)

Here's my tricky question.  I'm naturally dying to try it out to test my theory.  I could try it on a fresh piece of flint, properly prepared.  Or - even more outrageous - I could try it on one of the discarded Mesolithic cores I've found (like the one pictured here.)  Should I, or shouldn't I? 

The answer is that I'm going to duck the question entirely for the time being on practical grounds - I don't have enough skill to trust myself to use either skillfully.  Maybe one day when I've got better at it?   :-)

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Is it just me?

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that the general dumbing-down has affected museums as much as anywhere? Beautiful Victorian buildings that used to be the safe haven for thousands of fascinating and curious objects collected by indefatigable researchers and travellers now look more like a vaguely academic version of  "The X Factor" or "I'm a Celebrity - Get me out of here."

I went all the way to Hove Museum today (1-1/2 hours each way) to look at what was billed as a prehistory exhibit and one of the better collections of flint implements.  The exhibit was a single case with no information content of any substance and from which the best items had been removed for unspecified 'conservation purposes'.  Even this feeble showing was better than Portsmouth City Museum.  I visited it a few week ago to see the prehistoric exhibit only to be told that it had been temporarily replaced by an exhibit on Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes and a son of Portsmouth.  When I asked the lady behind the counter when the prehistory exhibit would be restored, she looked vaguely bemused and told that 'there are no plans to restore it' as the Doyle exhibition was to be made permanent.

Am I really alone in finding it a little odd that three-quarters of a million years of human pre-history should be wiped out completely in favour of a popular novelist who died in 1930?

Somewhere in Britain there is someone running a course entitled something like "Museum Curatorship in The Twenty First Century".  Whoever he or she is - and if I ever get my hands on them I won't be responsible for the consequences - is addressing his students something like this.  "30 years ago, museums were boring, smelly old buildings crammed full of so much Victorian rubbish no-one could take it all in.  It was visually meaningless, and everything was explained with long, hard-to-understand text labels that were fine when everyone read books but no-one reads today because they all watch telly.  So what we need is modern, airy, spacious, brightly lit rooms that attract young people.  Less is More.  Get rid of the clutter - cherry-pick a few of your best items and put them in well-lit cases with a minimum of boring wordage and plenty of visual cues - blow up some photographs.  Get the kids involved.  Have lots of interactive stuff - try on Victorian clothes or Roman togas or Saxon armour.  Design your dream house.  Look at a fly's eye through a microscope. Take all that old crap that the well-meaning anoraks have donated to the museum and stack it in crates in the basement.  No one will ever know, and more important no one will ever care."

Well, I care.  I'd like to take all the cool, modern museum curators and stack them in the basement where no one will ever hear from them again, and replace their interactive displays with the material from the basement, including the politically incorrect stuffed birds and the butterflies and the other archetypes that tell us what to look for and where to look for it, instead of just filling an hour or two until Coronation Street comes on.

Monday 16 November 2009

A great Victorian reference book republished

One of the best reference books for stone tools is that great work, Ancient Stone Implements of Great Britain, by Sir John Evans published in 1897. This brilliant Victorian book has hundreds of finely detailed drawings of implements of every kind and is invaluable to anyone wanting to identify a stone tool. Unfortunately, it has been out of print for many years and only available from antiquarian book sellers at anything from £50 to £100 or more because of the beautiful illustrations. I was very fortunate to discover a copy in Charing Cross Road twenty years ago for only a tenner.

Now I’m pleased to see that a publisher in India has reprinted it in paperback form and it’s available on Amazon for around £21 plus second hand versions. Well worth a look.