New hand axe facts from prehistoric Spain!

September 4, 2009

A hand axe is a prehistoric cutting tool.

Nature reports a true milestone in the evolution of human kind!

After a report earlier this year in National Geographic about the oldest prehistoric handprints in French and Spanish cave walls, researchers have reported this month in Nature found that human ancestors living in what is now Spain fashioned double-edged stone cutting tools as early as 900,000 years ago, almost twice as long ago as previous estimates for this technological achievement in Europe!

If confirmed, the new dates support the idea that the manufacture and use of teardrop-shaped stone implements, known as hand axes, spread rapidly from Africa into Europe and Asia beginning roughly 1 million years ago, say geologist Gary Scott and paleontologist Luis Gibert, both of the Berkeley Geochronology Center in California.

Josep Gibert, Luis Gibert y el científico Gary Scott.

A summary quote from the Nature report:

“Stone tools are durable reminders of the activities, skills and customs of early humans, and have distinctive morphologies that reflect the development of technological skills during the Pleistocene epoch.

In Africa, large cutting tools (hand-axes and bifacial chopping tools) became part of Palaeolithic technology during the Early Pleistocene (1.5 Myr ago). However, in Europe this change had not been documented until the Middle Pleistocene (<0.5 Myr ago).

Here we report dates for two western Mediterranean hand-axe sites that are nearly twice the age of the supposed earliest Acheulian in western Europe. Palaeomagnetic analysis of these two sites in southeastern Spain found reverse polarity magnetozones, showing that hand-axes were already in Europe as early as 0.9 Myr ago. This expanded antiquity for European hand-axe culture supports a wide geographic distribution of Palaeolithic bifacial technology outside of Africa during the Early Pleistocene.”

A neolithic hand axis - frontview (8000 B.C. - 5000 B.C.) found in the Sahara, North Africa.A neolithic hand axis - sideview (8000 B.C. - 5000 B.C.) found in the Sahara, North Africa.

SUGGESTION FOR FURTHER READING:
Evolutionary hand analysis!
Handprints indicate: ‘European cave artists were female’!

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