65,000-year-old ‘Swiss army knife’ reveals key to early human survival – National

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According to a study published in Thursday Science Reports.

But ancient humans didn’t just talk to each other, research shows, they also shared knowledge that could have contributed to the overall survival of the human race.

The Howiesons Poort blade is known as the “Swiss stone knife” of prehistory, as it is an early example of a composite multi-purpose tool. While stone tools were not revolutionary for their time, Howiesons Poort blades were so revolutionary because they are ‘carried away‘ – which means that the stone blades are attached to the handles – using glue and adhesives.

Ancient humans in southern Africa produced these early multi-tools in large numbers for hunting (fashioned into spears and arrows) and for cutting wood, plants, bones, skin, feathers and flesh.

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Stone tools from the Sibudu Cave site in South Africa, whose similarities to other tools in the region indicate that early humans shared their knowledge 65,000 years ago.


Paloma de la Pena/University of Cambridge


The researchers compared Swiss Army knife-shaped tools from seven sites across southern Africa and found that they all had the same shape and used the same pattern.

Handled tools were developed independently in other parts of the world at very different times – and they took many forms. But these southern African cultures chose to make their tools look the same, which the researchers found “culturally significant”.

The team of international scientists analyzing these 65,000-year-old tools was led by University of Sydney archaeologist Amy Way. They concluded that the similarities between tools across southern Africa indicate that early humans had to share information with each other – they were social networks.

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“The really exciting thing about this discovery is that it gives us evidence that there was a long-distance social connection between people, just before the great migration out of Africa, which involved all of our ancestors,” said Way via The Guardian.

Early humans had migrated out of Africa in smaller numbers before the great exodus around 60,000 years ago.

“Why was this exodus so successful where previous excursions were not? The main theory is that social media was stronger then,” Way added.

“This analysis shows for the first time that these social ties were in place in southern Africa just before the great exodus.”

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But how far has this sharing of knowledge gone? Way says Howiesons Poort blades have been found 1,200 kilometers apart in southern Africa.

“One hundred kilometers takes five days to walk, so it’s probably a whole network of groups that are mostly in contact with the neighboring group,” she said.

According to Paloma de la Peña, a senior research associate at the University of Cambridge and lead author of the study, social media may have been the reason why homo sapiens have been so successful in migrating across the world. where other primitive human species failed.

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“The main theory as to why modern humans replaced all other humans living outside of Africa around 60-70,000 years ago is that our ancestors were much better at social networking than other species, such as Neanderthals. , who were maybe smarter and stronger as individuals, but not great at sharing information,” de la Peña said.

Perhaps this research suggests that what makes us human is not just intelligence, but our ability to help our fellow human beings.


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