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.