Intelligent Design

Ancient mystery: Why did our stone age ancestors keep giant stone balls around?

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Thank you, cheap seats. That will be quite enough.

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From the paper: The archaeological samples discussed in the paper and characterized by use-wear and/or residues. For each specimen, three surfaces are presented (the white line indicates the side of the progressive rotation).

Now that the guffaws have died down, a serious adult source has offered a thoughtful suggestion:

An international team of researchers led by archaeologist Ella Assaf of Tel-Aviv University in Israel made a close examination of ten such stones found at Qesem Cave, a Lower Paleolithic site occupied by early humans between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago.

This is curious, because it’s the latest known appearance of these tools, a timeframe when other communities had long ago stopped using them. So Assaf and her team investigated to find out more about these stones, and how they got there.

Michelle Starr, “We May Finally Know Why Early Humans Kept These Mysterious Stone Balls Around ” at ScienceAlert

It turns out that these early people were probably using the stones to smash open bones, to get at the nutritious marrow.

“As bone marrow played a central role in human nutrition in the Lower Paleolithic, and our experimental results show that the morphology and characteristics of shaped stone ball replicas are well-suited for the extraction of bone marrow, we suggest that these features might have been the reason for their collection and use at Qesem Cave.”

Michelle Starr, “We May Finally Know Why Early Humans Kept These Mysterious Stone Balls Around ” at ScienceAlert

Paper. (open access)

2 Replies to “Ancient mystery: Why did our stone age ancestors keep giant stone balls around?

  1. 1
    EDTA says:

    A much simpler explanation would be that they were competing to see which tribe had the biggest one. Sort of like how, to this very day, several midwestern US states all claim to have the world’s largest ball of twine. (The town I grew up in had one of them. And it _was_ actually the biggest.) No need to go inventing stories about how they used these stones to get at more food.

  2. 2
    polistra says:

    Seems like the author is still overestimating primitivism. You wouldn’t need stones selected for roundness to break Sabertooth Tiger bones. A sharp stone would work better for that purpose. A rounded stone that shows wear was more likely used as a grinder, for milling grain or stripping fur from hides.

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