Lithics, Stone Tools, and What they Are!

Hi everyone! Welcome to The World of Paleoanthropology, where I share my passion for human evolution and archaeology. Today I want to talk about the earliest stone tool industries, from the Lomekwian to the advanced Homo sapiens tools. How did our ancestors and relatives develop such amazing skills and technologies? What are lithics, and how are they made? Let’s find out in this very brief overview! 

Lithics is a term that refers to stone tools or any other objects made from stone. Lithics can be classified into different types based on how they are made, such as flaked, ground, and polished stone tools. Flaked stone tools are the most common type of lithics, and they are made by striking a piece of stone (called a core) with another stone (called a hammerstone) or a bone to detach sharp flakes that can be used for cutting, scraping, piercing, etc.

The oldest known flaked stone tools are from the Lomekwian industry, named after the site of Lomekwi 3 in Kenya, where they were discovered in 2015. These tools date back to 3.3 million years ago, predating the genus Homo by 700,000 years! That means that some of our earlier ancestors or relatives, such as Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy’s species), could make and use stone tools . The Lomekwian tools are very simple and crude, consisting of cores, flakes, hammers, and anvils. They were probably used for breaking nuts or bones to extract the marrow.

The next major stone tool industry is the Oldowan, named after the site of Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, where it was first discovered in 1964. The Oldowan tools date from 2.6 to 1.7 million years ago, and they are associated with the earliest members of the genus Homo, such as Homo habilis (the “handy man”) . The Oldowan tools are more refined and diverse than the Lomekwian ones, including choppers with one sharp edge, scrapers, awls, etc. They were used for processing meat, plants and other materials.

The Oldowan industry was followed by the Acheulean industry, named after the site of Saint-Acheul in France, where it was first discovered in 1859. The Acheulean tools date from 1.7 million to 100,000 years ago, and they are associated with Homo erectus (the “upright man”) and later Homo species. The Acheulean tools are more complex and symmetrical than the Oldowan ones, and they include handaxes with two sharp edges, cleavers, picks, etc. They were used for hunting, butchering, woodworking and other tasks .

The Acheulean industry was followed by several regional industries that developed in different parts of the world during the Middle Paleolithic (300,000 to 50,000 years ago) and the Upper Paleolithic (50,000 to 10,000 years ago) periods. These industries include the Mousterian (associated with Neanderthals), the Aurignacian (associated with modern humans), the Solutrean (known for its leaf-shaped points), the Magdalenian (known for its bone and antler tools), etc. These industries show a great diversity and sophistication of lithic technologies, such as blade production, pressure flaking, retouching, hafting, etc. They also show evidence of symbolic behavior and artistry, such as engraving, painting and sculpting on stone and other materials.

As you can see, the history of stone tool industries is a fascinating story of human evolution and innovation. From the simple Lomekwian tools to the advanced Homo sapiens tools, our ancestors and relatives have demonstrated remarkable cognitive abilities and cultural adaptations. I hope you enjoyed this blog post and learned something new. Stay tuned for more posts on human evolution and archaeology!



Published by sethchagi

I am a Paleoanthropology Student, so far with two degrees, in Anthropology and Human Behavioral Science, pursuing my B.A and then my PhD I love to read (like a lot) and write, I love my family, and I adore anthropology! Remember, never stop exploring and never stop learning! There is always more to learn!

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