Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ancient Bone Tools Suggest Modern Human Behavior Has African Roots

09.11.2001


It’s an enduring enigma in paleoanthropology: when and where did modern human behavior arise? The fossil record suggests that anatomically modern humans appeared in Africa sometime between 150,000 and 100,000 years ago. Yet the earliest convincing indications of behavioral modernity in our species, archaeologists have argued, date to tens of thousands of years later and have turned up in Europe, not Africa. With that in mind, some theorists posited that modern behavior blossomed late and rather suddenly (perhaps as a result of key changes in the brain), shortly after anatomically modern humans began to colonize other parts of the globe.

Now a new discovery is making that scenario difficult to swallow. Researchers have recovered 28 specialized bone tools and related artifacts indicative of modern behavior from 70,000-year-old deposits in a South African cave known as Blombos. This, team member Christopher S. Henshilwood of the Iziko-South African Museum in Cape Town asserts, implies "that there was modern human behavior in Africa about 35,000 years before Europe." An analysis of these tools will appear in the December issue of the Journal of Human Evolution.

Though the ancient shards of bone do not necessarily dazzle the untrained eye, they hold great significance for archaeologists, who regard them as one of several telltale signs of sophisticated behavior. Not only are bone tools difficult to manufacture, study co-author Curtis Marean of Arizona State University explains, a shift toward more specialized tool production tends to accompany them. (Intriguingly, earlier work hinted at another aspect of behavioral modernity among the early Blombos people: symbolic thinking. Large quantities of ochre and an engraved bone have been found in the cave.)



Henshilwood and Marean note that whereas Europe has a long history of archaeological investigation, only a handful of African sites have been well excavated, thus extensive evidence for early behavioral modernity in Africa is likely to surface in the future. "I think that when we start to get a big sample, the picture of modern human evolution is going to look very different. A clear picture is emerging. This puts the behavioral evolution in step with the anatomical evolution," Marean remarks. "Once again, in terms of human evolution, we are seeing Africa as being precocious: Bipedal hominids evolved in Africa; the first real increase in brain size occurred in Africa; and now, we are beginning to see that the last great advance, the development of modern behavior, was made in Africa as well. Now," he muses, "the question becomes where in Africa did this first begin to happen, and why did it happen?"

Kate Wong | Scientific American
Further information:
http://www.sciam.com/news/110801/2.html

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht Stealth Virus for Cancer Therapy
31.01.2018 | Universität Zürich

nachricht New formulas for exploring the age structure of non-linear dynamical systems
23.01.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stiffness matters

22.02.2018 | Life Sciences

Magnetic field traces gas and dust swirling around supermassive black hole

22.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

First evidence of surprising ocean warming around Galápagos corals

22.02.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>