A New 40 Thousand Year Old Stone Tool Industry Discovered in China

A New Stone Tool Culture Discovered in China 

Paper in Nature:

Stone tools or lithics are very important to human origins and evolution. Without our advanced skills and ability to manipulate the world around us with tools, we would not be the dominant species that we are today. In fact, who knows if we would have even survived up until now. Stone tools date back to about 2.5 million years ago, it has long been believed that Homo habilis (The Handy Man) was the first toolmaker. But new dating in Oldupai Gorge in the Great Rift Valley, East Africa, has pushed back the dates of those tools, showing that they may have in fact been made much earlier, and by Australopithecines, before Homo. 

Wherever stone tools originated, they completely changed how humans (and I use this term to describe any hominin in the last two million years). They allowed us to do things that were either much harder to do or plain impossible without them, such as cutting and slicing meat, which when added to our diet, changed us in many ways all on its own. Throughout human evolution, there is a clear pattern of stone tool cultures, starting with the Oldowan from the Oldupai Gorge, created and used either by australopiths, or early Homo, then we have the Acheulean, which was created and used by H. erectus the first hominin to have a truly human body to really hunt and cut meat, and a few more industries after that, until we get to the bronze age. 

All of these different stone tool industries as they are called served different purposes and were in use for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years. As our ancestors evolved, so did their ability to craft stone tools, making them more advanced, and able to suit more of our needs, and wants. Out of all the things in archaeology, we feel we have a pretty good understanding of stone tools, but a recent find may show that we know less than we thought. 

This week in China, in the Nijewan Basin, near Xiamabei (which is almost 100 miles from Beijing) we have discovered something new and mysterious. A whole new stone tool culture that we had never seen before. The tools, which were dated to around 40 thousand years ago, were not what was seen around the world at this time in other places, such as Africa and Europe. These tools, called bladelets (little small blades that are hafted onto bone, or wood handles) were found all over the area, in various shapes and sizes. 

“The remains seemed to be in their original spots after the site was abandoned by the residents,” co-first author Shixia Yang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, told Live Science in an email. “Based on this, we can reveal a vivid picture of how people lived 40,000 years ago in Eastern Asia.” (1)

What makes this special, is that all other stone tool industries, at least at this time, varied greatly from these. They were unlike any that had been seen for this time at any other time. Found at a layer about 8 feet underground, using radiocarbon dating, we found out that these tools, which surrounded a hearth were 40 thousand years old. Thus unlike tools being used elsewhere in the world, these 380 miniature lithics were strewn all over the hearth area that was discovered, along with 430 mammal bones. 

380 bladelits were found at the site, and all would have been used for a wide variety of purposes, from creating other tools, cutting textiles, or most likely, cutting up meat to make it easier for consumption. 

The other aspect of these tools, that is crucial and hard to understand, is that these are the first stone tools that we observed with the presence of Red Ochre in China. “Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of ochre processing in Africa and Europe, to a lesser extent, dating back to about 300,000 years ago, and there’s evidence of ochre use in Australia starting about 50,000 years ago, d’Errico told Live Science. But prior to the excavation of Xiamabei, “the evidence for ochre use in Asia before [28,000 years ago] was, however, very scant,” he said.”(1) According to an article written in live science, based on this paper. 

 So what were these tools used for? Well of course, as we all know while bones and stones may fossilize, behavior does not. So we cannot know for sure what these tools were used for, or who made them. While H. sapiens are believed to be the creators, other closely related species may have been in the area at the same time. So it is not impossible to rule out Neanderthals or possibly even Denisovans. The fact that these tools have Red Ochre covering them, gives them a ritual sense, or at least a sense of significance over anything else. 

We know Red Ochre has been used for ceremonial purposes all over the world for millennia, and since this is the first finding of it in China, this is a pretty big deal! So while we may not know who did it, or why, we know it was important in the hominin development in China. 

While there are still many mysteries to be solved about these new lithics that have been found, we know their general place in human history, for, of course, they would fulfill the same reasons any other human would have made stone tools. The mystery lies with why were these so different than other tools in the world at this time? Why were they covered in Ochre? How did it find its’s way onto these tools? We may never know, but it is very significant in the grand scheme of things, as the “first” for everything is important. 

While we may not know exactly what these tools were for, why they were different, or even who made them, it is just another mystery to add to Paleoanthropology, which is an ever-growing field of questions, and I would not have it any other way! 

Sources: 

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-04445-2.epdf?sharing_token=8gTE_JYZ9Eh4C0pOsqf4oNRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0PPy2-gfb914kHNiOsuaImesowL0NKdh1Yql8NmNTcDewMw5N6i-gSvyX7tOVR4ZnkoN7LGTkMlGAVlnuXAA4pI67GgXktgPk3su9u0qnAM6qIGi09NfoW5nv7ZQp6Q8tFsWt2czn_HGrsc52MAcb6dFw_eM8q3pjfghf-4lzU8vQ0n_1WYPVh70LM9eTwtAD8%3D&tracking_referrer=arstechnica.com
  2. https://www.livescience.com/old-stone-age-site-discovered-china
  3. https://arstechnica.com/science/2022/03/a-40000-year-old-chinese-stone-tool-culture-unlike-any-other/
  4. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/03/220302110555.htm

An exciting announcement…our next Symposium!

I am proud to announce the second #WOPA Symposium! This time on the origins and functionality of #Bipedalism, or upright walking, aka walking on two feet!

We have some awesome experts coming on board, and while this event is not live, you will have a chance to email your questions to worldofpaleoanthropology@gmail.com with the subject “Symposium Q/A” and we will have a period of time after all the presentations are done, to get them answered!

Each presentation will be between ten and fifteen minutes, followed by a 45 minute Q/A.

Once everything is filmed and put together, it will be posted across our social media sites for your educational and viewing pleasure!

See you then!

Chimpanzees and Conservation with Dr. Craig Stanford-The Story of Us #32

Hello my fellow Anthropologists! 

Welcome to the next episode of “The Story of Us”, our online show where we interview and have chats with prominent members of the scientific community! Today we are featuring guest Dr. Craig Stanford of USC, a primatologist who has worked closely with Dr. Jane Goodall, and has many interesting stories of his own to share. 

Dr. Craig Stanford

Come join us to learn about chimpanzees, conservation, Jane herself, and what it takes to be a naturalist. We join Dr. Stanford (whom I had the pleasure of seeing in person just the other week) who is as friendly as they come, and was kind enough to come join us! 

Hear some of the secrets and misconceptions about Chimp society, and learn what makes a chimp a chimp! 

Come along, and never stop learning! 

Be sure not to miss an episode by subscribing! And if you learned something, please like and share! 

Carol V. Ward-Paleoanthropology and the future of Research; The Story of Us Ep: 29

In this episode, we are interviewing Dr. Carol V. Ward, a Paleoanthropologists who has done work in Kenya, and from her home University.

Leading a lab of her own and being a part of the leadership team for a research institute in the Turkana Basin, Dr. Ward is very well accomplished and is a wonderful storyteller. In this episode we talk about the current state of Anthropology, and where it is going in the next few years.

Tune in to hear our chat and learn all about Paleoanthropology in today’s age from someone on the forefront! To view all our episodes, please visit our Youtube Channel. For more information on Paleoanthropology please visit our website http://www.worldofpaleoanthropology.org for blogs, news, interviews, and so much more!

If you liked this episode, please be sure to like it, and subscribe so that you do not miss a future episode!

I have many fun ideas for some future videos and you are not going to want to miss them! Until next time! Never Stop Learning!

Is that Anthropology? You bet!

To view on Academia.edu (If you have an account, please join the discussion!)

We live in a beautiful world, full of wonders, so many of which we will never understand or witness ourselves. But through community, and our shared connections, we can create better understandings of our world, see places and things we never would have seen otherwise. Everything in our world is connected, by this or that, and it is all held together in a fragile globe of an ecosystem. It is through the enlightenment of education, as so many great teachers and philosophers have said, that make the human experience as we know it.

There is, however, a unifying idea, or realm of ideas that can help a person, or a group of persons to begin to better understand the world in which they take part daily, whether they realize it or not. It is the view of many prominent individuals and institutions that learning and education are some of the top moving forces in our world. Without one of these, or either, we would once again be stuck in the “Dark Ages”. We must realize that if only the top tier of people possess the knowledge of the world, then there is little that will change.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”

Malcom X


The more we know about the world around us, the more we know about ourselves, and our place in it. The study of ourselves and our place in the world is called “Anthropology’, from the roots “Anthropos” or Man/Human and “Ology” or the study of. This is what we will be discussing today, Anthropology, its effects on your daily life, and its role in this world that so few people understand. As we understand more of this, we can use it to improve our day to day lives, from the person who cares little, to someone who is ever excited to learn more!

“Upon the subject of education…I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in”

Abraham Lincoln


When it comes down to it, everything that we do, or are involved in, is in some way tied to Anthropology. Many of you are Anthropologists and do not even realize it! Are you in marketing? HR? Sales? You are using Anthropology! Are you a student looking to raise money for a local cause? Interested in history? It is all Anthropology! Pretty cool right! So let’s dig deeper, and see just what I am talking about when it comes to our place in the world and Anthropology. I mean, that is what we are here for right?


So before we get too far into things, it is a good idea to make sure we all have the same understanding of what Anthropology is. Anthropology is the study of us, of you and I, of humankind. From the start of our evolution 7 million years ago, up until the types of music we like today. If it involves humans, it is anthropology. There are four main subfields of anthropology to better divide up this massive topic, a topic that there is so much to learn about!

  1. Biological Anthropology is the study of, you guessed it, biology. The morphology or shape of the create, its bones, and muscles. Fossils. This is the field where the scientists are sitting with their calipers in the lab measuring and taking data points from finds from the field.
  2. Cultural Anthropology is when an Anthropologist studies a living culture, everything about them that they can observe typically. From birthing rights to death ceremonies and everything in between, Cultural Anthropologists typically work within the culture that they are studying, for at least a period of time.
  3. Linguistic Anthropology is the study of language, how it formed, how it is used, and of the many different languages and sounds that we find our species making.
  4. Archaeology is the final subfield, and one of the largest. This is the study of ancient cultures and artifacts of the past. These are the individuals doing the excavations, and bringing the fossils in to be analyzed, and revealing more secrets about our ancient ancestors.

    So, now that we know all of this, what do Anthropologists actually do? Well, as shown by the four subfields, it really depends on what the individual has an interest or skills in. They could choose any of the 4, or a combination of any, or they may add their own flavor of science into the mix to make their studies more suited for themselves. Anthropologists study human history, human activity, human dreams, hopes, and wants. Our mythology and religion, our cultures, the only way we can properly understand these phenomena and share them with other individuals in the world, we have to have an understanding of what we are, of who we are, and where we come from.

    Anthropologists do their work by doing fieldwork, getting into the area or culture they are studying, making observations, taking notes, and seeing what they can find out. Getting down and dirty really, and getting involved. Research and data are critical to Anthropology, otherwise it would all be guesswork and not based on empirical, or hard evidence, which is worth little when dealing with a period of time where you only have artifacts and interpretations to make.



    Through years of study, hard work, and dedication, anyone who is interested can become an Anthropologist in any field that they wish to, just be aware it involves a great deal of schooling, dedication, and hard work. But you can make it! It is one of the most fascinating, and intimate fields of science that we humans can be involved in.


    Anthropology is a crucial study to understanding the world that we live in, the world that we are preparing, and the future of our next generations. It all ties together. Using Anthropological knowledge to work with, and apply it to modern-day needs and experiences is called “Applied Anthropology” one of the more minor subfields that we have yet to discuss.

    Applied Anthropology is using what we have learned from any of the four subfields, and using it for everyday tasks is our modern world. For example, earlier I mentioned marketing. Well, let us take a second. What makes a good marketer? They need to know their product, and they need to know who their clients are and what they are trying to sell their items to. They need to have a basic understanding of whom they are talking to. Since of course, they cannot check each and every viewer, there are key points where those who study humans know we are all very similar. Marketers will capitalize on what they know about humans, which will sell or grab the attention of certain populations of people. Knowing how people work is a talent, one that can be learned by the study of Anthropology.

    All fields of medicine, are trained Anthropologists, maybe not ones digging in trenches, but they had to master the biological side of humanity, and they must understand what will hurt or harm a person. They too must know how a person works, maybe not mentally, but physically. If you’re a psychologist, you’re also an Anthropologist, studying the human mind and how it was built, and functions. All of this is Anthropology. It is amazing when one sits back and realizes all of the things that actually fit under the massive umbrella of “What is Anthropology?”

    Wow, so what have we learned? A great deal if you ask me! We have taken the term “Anthropology” out of the antiquated past that we all knew it from, took it out of the museums and dig sites, and showed that many things, professions, and careers in the “regular” daily world are actually Anthropologically related! From interpreters and translators to English teachers and psychologists, these fields all fall under the subfields of Anthropology. So many of you can call yourselves Anthropologists when you had no idea of the fact!

    Now, of course, the next course of action for those who are truly interested in the field would be to pursue your interests in humans, learn and share what you can! There is a whole world out there to explore! Go out there, and never stop learning!

“The purpose of Anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences”

Ruth Benedict.

Sources:

  1. American Anthropology Associatioon. (n.d.). What is Anthropology?
  2. Sapiens.org. (n.d.). What is Anthropology
  3. UC Davis. (n.d.). What is Anthropology?

Modern Humans Entered Europe Thousands of Years Before Expected!

For as long as people have been around, we have wondered where we came from. It is an innate curiosity that most of us share on some level. Whether it is wondering where our grandparents came from, their culture, and what language they speak. Or perhaps it is wondering which tribe an African American family belongs to.

We all wonder, and we all have the potential to explore and find out, to the best of our ability, answer these questions. But Paleoanthropology, the study of ancient humanity, is one of the fastest fields in STEM today. With new discoveries all the time, each adding new pieces, and sometimes even rewriting what we understand about our own evolution and development. 

Most scientists agree that our species Homo sapiens evolved in Africa, 2-300,000 kya. The dispersal of our species is a series of events that are hard to explain and observe, but which leave traces to be discovered. Our species was not the first to leave Africa, that crown belongs to Homo erectus, one of our distant ancestors, who left Africa around 1.5 mya. They traveled into the Levant, Asia, and into South Asia. There is no evidence of them in Europe however, despite their large range. 

What we do have in Europe however, and most abundantly, are the Neanderthals. Their ancestors, who we shared in common, lived around 800,000 kya. At some point near there, we diverged, and one part of us stayed in Africa, further developing on our own path there. The other portion of the population moved out of Africa, through the Middle East, into Asia, Europe, and across much of the wold world. They speciated a few times, we now know of Denisovans, H. Hiedelbergensis, Neanderthals, H. antecessor, and of course at the last stage, modern Humans.

The periods in which all of these migrations occurred is something that is highly contested and is a key focus point for many scientists who focus and specialize in radiocarbon dating, such as a friend of WOPA, Dr. Tom Higham who was involved with this study. 

The importance of this new paper is not to show that humans migrated into Europe, we know that, but what is new is how long ago they did so. We can safely assume now that there was not a single “Out of Africa” event, a term that is often used incorrectly, as Dr. Chris Stringer prefers the term, Recent African Origins for this hypothesis on how humans populated the world.

The basic idea is that between about 60-90 kya AMH went on multiple migrations out of Africa and into various parts of Asia Europe Australia, and eventually even into the new world by 23 thousand years ago!

In a cave in Southern France, Grotte Mandrin, it has been discovered that modern-day humans, aka Homo sapiens sapiens, occupied this shelter as long as 56,800 years ago! This is about 10k years longer ago than was first believed. This paper is based on evidence of a tooth that was discovered in one of the deeper layers of the cave sediment. 

The cave had an occupation of Neanderthals on and off for the last 100,000 years, but it has been known that modern humans occupied the cave from time to time as well. But we did not know they were here this early. The layer in which the tooth was found is believed to show the occupation of modern humans for about 40 years around 56,800 and 51,700 years ago. This is where the tooth from, and has easily been attributed to AMH. “This was not a short-term hunter-gatherer cam but a tentative colonization of Europe,” main author and director of excavations at the cave for the last 24 years; Ludovic Silmak of the University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurés in France, along with his colleagues. 

This is important and implies a few key things. First of all, it shows that migrations out of Africa may be more complicated, and date back farther in history than we believed. And as mentioned in the study, this does not put a cap on how long ago modern humans were in Europe. This just shows what we know so far. But this does mean that Humans were around Neanderthals for a longer period than we once believed. 

Being around Neanderthals for ten thousand years longer would have given us longer periods for admixture, allowing European humans, who may have migrated back into Africa, traces of Neanderthal DNA, however slight. But this would explain the 2-4% of Neanderthal DNA found in modern-day Europeans. 

Another fascinating aspect of the study, that shows the importance of having a longer period with the Neanderthals, is that it appears there was a cross of technology or information on some level. The study details that flint tools were discovered among the sediment that came from within 100 km of the cave, but only an intimate knowledge of the landscape would have allowed for the harvesting of such resources, possibly suggesting that Neanderthals transferred this information to later modern humans who were living in the cave. 

Source:

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Humans in Europe, 10ky before we thought? Seems so! 

For as long as people have been around, we have wondered where we came from. It is an innate curiosity that most of us share on some level. Whether it is wondering where our grandparents came from, their culture, and what language they speak. Or perhaps it is wondering which tribe an African American family belongs to. 

We all wonder, and we all have the potential to explore and find out, to the best of our ability, answer these questions. But Paleoanthropology, the study of ancient humanity, is one of the fastest fields in STEM today. With new discoveries all the time, each adding new pieces, and sometimes even rewriting what we understand about our own evolution and development. 

Most scientists agree that our species Homo sapiens evolved in Africa, 2-300,000 kya. The dispersal of our species is a series of events that are hard to explain and observe, but which leave traces to be discovered. Our species was not the first to leave Africa, that crown belongs to Homo erectus, one of our distant ancestors, who left Africa around 1.5 mya. They traveled into the Levant, Asia, and into South Asia. There is no evidence of them in Europe however, despite their large range. 

What we do have in Europe however, and most abundantly, are the Neanderthals. Their ancestors, who we shared in common, lived around 800,000 kya. At some point near there, we diverged, and one part of us stayed in Africa, further developing on our own path there. The other portion of the population moved out of Africa, through the Middle East, into Asia, Europe, and across much of the wold world. They speciated a few times, we now know of Denisovans, H. Hiedelbergensis, Neanderthals, H. antecessor, and of course at the last stage, modern Humans.

The periods in which all of these migrations occurred is something that is highly contested and is a key focus point for many scientists who focus and specialize in radiocarbon dating, such as a friend of WOPA, Dr. Tom Higham who was involved with this study. 

The importance of this new paper is not to show that humans migrated into Europe, we know that, but what is new is how long ago they did so. We can safely assume now that there was not a single “Out of Africa” event, a term that is often used incorrectly, as Dr. Chris Stringer prefers the term, Recent African Origins for this hypothesis on how humans populated the world.

The basic idea is that between about 60-90 kya AMH went on multiple migrations out of Africa and into various parts of Asia Europe Australia, and eventually even into the new world by 23 thousand years ago!

In a cave in Southern France, Grotte Mandrin, it has been discovered that modern-day humans, aka Homo sapiens sapiens, occupied this shelter as long as 56,800 years ago! This is about 10k years longer ago than was first believed. This paper is based on evidence of a tooth that was discovered in one of the deeper layers of the cave sediment. 

The cave had an occupation of Neanderthals on and off for the last 100,000 years, but it has been known that modern humans occupied the cave from time to time as well. But we did not know they were here this early. The layer in which the tooth was found is believed to show the occupation of modern humans for about 40 years around 56,800 and 51,700 years ago. This is where the tooth from, and has easily been attributed to AMH. “This was not a short-term hunter-gatherer cam but a tentative colonization of Europe,” main author and director of excavations at the cave for the last 24 years; Ludovic Silmak of the University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurés in France, along with his colleagues. 

This is important and implies a few key things. First of all, it shows that migrations out of Africa may be more complicated, and date back farther in history than we believed. And as mentioned in the study, this does not put a cap on how long ago modern humans were in Europe. This just shows what we know so far. But this does mean that Humans were around Neanderthals for a longer period than we once believed. 

Being around Neanderthals for ten thousand years longer would have given us longer periods for admixture, allowing European humans, who may have migrated back into Africa, traces of Neanderthal DNA, however slight. But this would explain the 2-4% of Neanderthal DNA found in modern-day Europeans. 

Another fascinating aspect of the study, that shows the importance of having a longer period with the Neanderthals, is that it appears there was a cross of technology or information on some level. The study details that flint tools were discovered among the sediment that came from within 100 km of the cave, but only an intimate knowledge of the landscape would have allowed for the harvesting of such resources, possibly suggesting that Neanderthals transferred this information to later modern humans who were living in the cave. 

Source: