The analysis of artifacts from a 325,000-year-old site in Armenia shows that human technological innovation occurred intermittently throughout the Old World, rather than spreading from a single point of origin, as previously thought.
The study, published today in the journal Science, examines thousands of stone artifacts retrieved from Nor Geghi 1, a unique site preserved between two lava flows dated to 200,000-400,000 years ago. Layers of floodplain sediments and an ancient soil found between these lava flows contain the archaeological material. The dating of volcanic ash found within the sediments and detailed study of the sediments themselves allowed researchers to correlate the stone tools with a period between 325,000 and 335,000 years ago when Earth’s climate was similar to today’s…
The stone tools provide early evidence for the simultaneous use of two distinct technologies: biface technology, commonly associated with hand axe production during the Lower Paleolithic, and Levallois technology, a stone tool production method typically attributed to the Middle Stone Age in Africa and the Middle Paleolithic in Eurasia. Traditionally, Archaeologists use the development of Levallois technology and the disappearance of biface technology to mark the transition from the Lower to the Middle Paleolithic roughly 300,000 years ago.
Archaeologists have argued that Levallois technology was invented in Africa and spread to Eurasia with expanding human populations, replacing local biface technologies in the process. This theory draws a link between populations and technologies and thus equates technological change with demographic change. The co-existence of the two technologies at Nor Geghi 1 provides the first clear evidence that local populations developed Levallois technology out of existing biface technology.
“The combination of these different technologies in one place suggests to us that, about 325,000 years ago, people at the site were innovative,” says Daniel Adler, associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, and the study’s lead author. Moreover, the chemical analysis of several hundred obsidian artifacts shows that humans at the site utilized obsidian outcrops from as far away as 120 kilometers (approximately 75 miles), suggesting they must also have been capable of exploiting large, environmentally diverse territories. Paper. paywall – D. S. Adler, K. N. Wilkinson, S. Blockley, D. F. Mark, R. Pinhasi, B. A. Schmidt-Magee, S. Nahapetyan, C. Mallol, F. Berna, P. J. Glauberman, Y. Raczynski-Henk, N. Wales, E. Frahm, O. Jöris, A. MacLeod, V. C. Smith, V. L. Cullen, and B. Gasparian. Early Levallois technology and the Lower to Middle Paleolithic transition in the Southern Caucasus. Science, 2014; 345 (6204): 1609-1613 DOI: 10.1126/science.1256484 More.
The take-home point is that lots of people were innovative back then.
See also: What Neanderthal jewelry means It’s not just that the ornaments did not have a practical use. They probably expressed something. Eagle talons, for example, might imply something about the person who wore them, in the same way that a peace sign implies something about the wearer today. But it may have implied the opposite thing.
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