A turning point in human evolution has been identified through reanalysis of a single stone tool found in Tabun Cave in northern Israel, from about 350,000 years ago.
It had been used not to bash animals or butcher their carcasses but to abrade soft material, possibly animal hides, much earlier in human evolution than had been thought, say Ron Shimelmitz, Iris Groman-Yaroslavski, Mina Weinstein-Evron and Danny Rosenberg from the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa.
Grinding and abrading (scraping) had only been thought to have developed much later, Shimelmitz explains to Haaretz. “The entire engagement in this technology is much later, around 200,000 years ago,” he says.
Yes, based on one tool, this discovery, reported in the Journal of Human Evolution, changes our thinking about part of our deep technological evolution.
Abrading stones abound in Africa and Europe starting about 200,000 years ago, from which point there was more frequent evidence of that technology, explains Shimelmitz, an expert in the evolution of technology. But it is also true that given that assumption, archaeologists hadn’t necessarily been looking for such artifacts at earlier sites – for one thing, they’re very hard to identify. “You need to look for them,” he adds.