|24 October 2011
Sophisticated blades produced earlier than previously thought
Archaeology has long associated advanced blade production with the Upper Palaeolithic, about 30,000 to 40,000 years ago - linked with the emergence of Homo Sapiens, and features such as cave art. Now researchers have uncovered evidence which shows that "modern" blade production was also an element of Amudian industry during the late Lower Palaeolithic, 200,000 to 400,000 years ago, as part of the Acheulo-Yabrudian cultural complex - a geographically limited group of hominins who lived in what are now Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
Professor Avi Gopher, Dr Ran Barkai and Dr Ron Shimelmitz of Tel Aviv University's Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilisations say that large numbers of long, slender cutting tools were discovered at Qesem Cave, outside of Tel Aviv, challenging the notion that blade production is exclusively linked with recent modern humans.
The blades are the result of a well planned "production line," says Dr Barkai. Every element - from the choice of raw material to the production method itself - points to a sophisticated system rivalling the blade technology used hundreds of thousands of years later.
This is perhaps the first time that such technology was standardised, notes Professor Gopher, who points out that the blades were produced with relatively small amounts of waste materials. This industry enabled the inhabitants of the cave to produce with relative ease tools normally considered costly in raw material and time. Thousands of these blades have been discovered at the site. Most were made to have one sharp cutting edge, and one naturally dull edge easily gripped in a hand.
Professor Cristina Lemorini from Sapienza University of Rome, who closely analysed microscopic markings on the blades and conducted a series of experiments, determined the tools were primarily used for butchering.
According to the researchers, this innovative technology is one of a score of new behaviors exhibited by the inhabitants of Qesem Cave. "There is clear evidence of daily and habitual use of fire," says Dr Barkai. There is also evidence of a division of space within the cave; inhabitants using each space in a regular manner, conducting specific tasks in predetermined places.
Edited from PhysOrg, American Friends of Tel Aviv University (17 October 2011)
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