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8 October 2011
Evidence of earliest mass production found in Israel

If someone described to you that a factory had been set up to mass produce tools and weapons and that, attached to the factory there was a kitchen and a canteen, you would probably accept this as a description of a modern day industrial area in any city or town around the world. But what if this factory was 40,000 years old? Well, until recently, you would have said that they were talking about the earliest found example of mass production, stemming from the Late Paleolithic period. So what would your reaction be if you were told that the factory in question was between 200,000 and 400,000 years old? Fantasy? Well not if you are a member of a team of archaeologists from Tel Aviv University, Israel, working in the Qassem Cave in the Samarian foothills, just outside Tel Aviv.
     It is believed that the cave was originally created by the action of acidic water on the limestone rock. Some sort of seismic event then opened the entrance to the cavern over 200,000 years ago, to allow the local inhabitants of the late Lower Paleolithic period to start up their massive tool production, before closing again and sealing in the secrets until contruction work started recently on a highway widening project. The area is surrounded by large quantities of flint and the tools made there were of a very high quality, covering all stages from hunting the prey to precise butchering, having one sharp edge and one blunt one, so they could be hand held comfortably.
     The inhabitants were part of the Acheulo-Yabrudian cultural complex which was restricted to the area now known as Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and Syria. Little is known of these tool makers, who were an earlt forerunner to Homo Sapiens and only a few teeth have so far been discovered. But this discovery has pushed back the boundaries of modern man's existence in the area to over 200,000 years. There is still considerable work to do in the caves and it is hoped that more human remains can be found, to give more knowledge and insight into these ancient industrial pioneers.

Edited from Science Direct (2 August 2011), The Media Line, The Jerusalem Post (4 October 2011)

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