Prehistoric ‘Swiss Army knife’ Reveals Key To Early Human Survival


The presence of ancient multi-tools in southern Africa may suggest that communication between ancient humans spanned long distances, according to a study published in Scientific Reports. But ancient humans weren’t only talking to each other, the research found, they were also sharing knowledge that may have aided in the overall survival of the human race.

The Prehistoric Blade Reeks Of Connection

The Howiesons Poort blade is known as the “stone Swiss Army knife” of prehistory because it is an early example of a composite tool that had multiple purposes. While stone tools were not revolutionary for the time, the Howiesons Poort blades were so groundbreaking because they are ‘hafted‘ — meaning that the stone blades are affixed to 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 cutting wood, plants, bone, skin, feathers and flesh. 

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 among the tools across southern Africa indicate that early humans must have been sharing information with each other — they were social networking. “The really exciting thing about this find is that it gives us evidence that there was long-distance social connection between people, just before the big migration out of Africa, which involved all of our ancestors,” Way said via The Guardian. Early humans had been migrating out of Africa in smaller numbers before the large exodus approximately 60,000 years ago. “This analysis shows for the first time that these social connections were in place in southern Africa just before the big exodus.” Way added.

Spanning Over Long Distance

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

“The main theory as to why modern humans replaced all the other humans living outside Africa around 60-70,000 years ago is that our ancestors were much better at social networking than the other species…” de la Peña said. This research suggests that what makes us people is not intelligence alone, but our capacity to help our fellow humans.

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Source: Globalnews


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