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Discovery of ancient stone tools rewrites the history of technology in India

A brand new discovery of stone tools from about 385,000 years in the past has anthropologists rethinking the history of technology. The stone tools, discovered at a web page in southern India, had been refined blades chipped from chunks of quartz, which is a method that mavens in the past idea got here to India most effective about 125,000 years in the past.

Archaeologists analyzed greater than 7,200 stone tools and located that this refined tool-making methodology, referred to as Levallois, started changing clunkier and extra primitive stone tools between 449,000 and 321,000 years in the past. This discovery is the earliest proof of Levallois technology in India, in line with a find out about printed lately in the magazine Nature. It additionally pushes again the technological timeline there more or less 250,000 years.

Ancient human relations — jointly referred to as hominins — began making heavy stone tools a minimum of 1.75 million years in the past. But more or less 300,000 to 400,000 years in the past, hominins in Africa and Europe went thru a technological revolution and started chipping blades and issues off of moveable stone cores. These Levallois tools had been a lot more straightforward to supply in huge amounts, and so they may well be hooked up to sticks to make spears. Previous digs advised that this extra complicated technology didn’t catch on in India till a lot later, after round 140,000 years in the past. So one concept mentioned that fashionable people introduced their tool-making technology with them to India once they first began leaving Africa round 125,000 years in the past (give or take a couple of thousand years).

“These data show that was wrong,” says John Hawks, an anthropology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who used to be now not concerned in the find out about. Today’s findings disclose that Levallois tools emerged in India more or less 385,000 years in the past — proper round the identical time they began appearing up in Africa and Europe. That method “India is part of this network of cultural innovation that included Neanderthals and Africans,” Hawks says. Michael Petraglia, a professor of human evolution at the Max Planck Institute in Germany who additionally didn't take part in the analysis, is of the same opinion that the discovery is a key piece of the puzzle. “It fills an important gap in our knowledge of an important crossroads,” he says.

Stone tools recovered at the Attirampakkam web page in India from the center paleolithic — together with Levallois technology.
Photo: Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, India

Over the previous 20 years, archaeologists from the Sharma Centre for Heritage Education in India have unearthed a treasure trove of tools from a creekside web page in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. There aren't any bones at the web page, so the analysis group doesn’t know which ancient human species lived there. But those stone tools can give any other window into the lives of ancient hominins all through this key length of technological alternate. “India is often ignored,” says Shanti Pappu, one of the archaeologists who led the find out about. “We know we don’t have the fossils. It’s a matter of luck to find them. But we thought, ‘Let’s do as much as we can with what we have.’”

By inspecting 1000's of stone tools and relationship the layers of soil the place they had been discovered, Pappu and her colleagues had been in a position to reconstruct how technology modified over just about 2 million years. The timeline they got here up with is going like this: between 1.7 and 1.07 million years in the past, the hominins dwelling at this web page made primitive hand axes and cleavers by way of chipping away at huge rocks to make a leading edge. Then, after a length with few artifacts, there used to be an abrupt shift: between 449 and 321 thousand years in the past, Levallois issues and flakes — and the cores they got here from — took over, even though a couple of of the ones previous, clunky stone tools endured. Over the subsequent 200,000 or so years, those hominins progressed their methodology, as they were given even higher at making Levallois flakes, blades, issues, and scrapers.

While the new timeline method the previous tale about technology isn’t as convincing, it’s now not transparent what replaces it. One risk is that there have been previous hominin migrations out of Africa that introduced the technology with them. But it’s additionally imaginable that the discovery emerged concurrently in Africa, Europe, and Asia, as hominins riffed on their usual stone tool-making methods.

That’s Petraglia’s favourite clarification. “My view is that this doesn’t have anything to do really with an Out of Africa event,” he says. But he provides that it’s onerous to mention extra till archaeologists discover extra clues. Today’s findings upload to an rising image: ancient people had been much more like us than we assumed. “We carry our ideas with us, and trade ideas and exchange genes,” Hawks says. “They did that, too, even though the technology was much more basic than we use today.”

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