Prehistoric people collected and reused stone tools 500,000 years ago

(ORDO NEWS) — Prehistoric settlements are full of stone tools that seem to have two life cycles: They were made, used and discarded, then reassembled and used again. A new study puts forward an interesting hypothesis about the reasons for this.

The study suggests that the reuse of these tools is due to the fact that they are “memory items” that represent a link to past and previous generations: something to remember places, events and people.

Archaeologists have studied 49 flint tools excavated from the famous site of Revadim in the southern Coastal Plain of Israel. The studied tools were taken from a layer of sediments dating back to about 500,000 years ago.

By studying the patina on the items – the chemical coating that settles on flint when it’s exposed to the air for long periods of time – the researchers determined the items’ function over two different life cycles of use.

“Why did prehistoric people collect and use tools that had been made, used and discarded by their predecessors years before?” says archaeologist Bar Efrati of Tel Aviv University in Israel.

“Lack of raw materials was clearly not the reason at Revadim, where good quality flint is readily available. Nor was the motivation purely functional, as the reused tools were neither unusual in shape nor uniquely suited to any particular use.”

Using microscopic analysis, it was found that the instruments had two active edges – the old one and the new one. It appears that the second time these stone objects were used was for less difficult tasks – scraping soft materials such as animal skin and flesh – rather than for cutting or chopping.

Moreover, the change in shape that occurred when these instruments were picked up and used a second time seems to have been very minimal.

Signs from the first use of the guns have largely survived, suggesting that it was important to preserve their appearance.

Based on these features, the researchers believe that the tools had sentimental value and were collected because of the memories they evoked or because of their specific connection to the past.

It’s hard to say for sure, but it’s an interesting idea, backed up by some evidence.

“Imagine a prehistoric man walking through a landscape 500,000 years ago when he sees an old stone tool,” says archaeologist Ran Barkai of Tel Aviv University. “This instrument means something to him – it keeps the memory of his ancestors or evokes associations with a certain place.”

“He takes it and weighs it in his hands. The artifact gives him pleasure, and he decides to take it home.” Realizing that daily use can help preserve and even enhance the feeling of memories, he touches up the edges for his own use, but tries not to change the overall shape – in honor of the first manufacturer.

Perhaps these tools were reused because it required less effort than creating new tools from scratch, but along with the 49 reused items analyzed here, there were also many newly created tools – so this strategy was also widely used. And adapting an old tool isn’t necessarily easier than building a new one from scratch.

In other words, early humans around 500,000 years ago weren’t all that different from us in the way they collected souvenirs – functional souvenirs that did a specific job, but nonetheless reminded of something that happened. in past.

“In a modern analogy, prehistoric man can be compared to a young farmer who still plows his fields on his great-grandfather’s old rusty tractor, replacing parts from time to time, but keeping the good old car as it is, because it symbolizes his family’s connection to the earth” Barkay says.

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