Why it took early humans almost 2mn yrs to develop hand-held stone axe

Published: Thursday, November 4, 2010, 16:10 [IST]
 

Washington, Nov 4 (ANI): A new study suggests that Stone Age humans were only able to develop relatively advanced tools after their brains evolved a greater capacity for complex thought.

Researchers wanted to investigate why it took early humans almost two million years to move from razor-sharp stones to a hand-held stone axe.

Therefore, they 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.

The team say that comparing the manufacturing techniques used for both Stone Age tools provides evidence of how the human brain and human behaviour evolved during the Lower Palaeolithic period.

Neuroscientist Dr Aldo Faisal, the lead author of the study from the Departments of Bioengineering and Computing at Imperial College London, says: "The advance from crude stone tools to elegant hand-held axes was a massive technological leap for our early human ancestors. Hand-held axes were a more useful tool for defence, hunting and routine work. Interestingly, our study reinforces the idea that tool making and language evolved together as both required more complex thought, making the end of the Lower Palaeolithic a pivotal time in our history. After this period, early humans left Africa and began to colonise other parts of the world."

The researchers behind today's study say that their evidence, from studying both tool-making techniques, confirms that the evolution of the early human brain was behind the development of the hand-held axe.

Furthermore, the team suggests that the advancement of hand-held axe production may have also coincided with the development of language, as these functions overlap in the same regions of the modern and early human brains. (ANI)

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