A tool dating back 65,000 years, often likened to a ‘Swiss Army knife’ of the prehistoric era, is shedding light on the extent of early human knowledge-sharing, as reported by The Guardian.
These ancient artifacts, crafted in a consistent shape and template, have been unearthed in significant quantities across southern Africa.
The discovery of a 65,000-year-old tool in southern Africa has provided scientists with compelling evidence that our Homo sapiens ancestors engaged in communication with one another.
An international team of experts determined that early humans throughout the continent fashioned this stone tool in precisely the same shape, utilizing a shared template, indicating a remarkable level of knowledge-sharing.
These remarkable artifacts, sometimes referred to as the “stone Swiss Army knife” of prehistory, were crafted following a similar template over extensive geographical distances, as outlined in a study published in Scientific Reports.
These tools were created in southern Africa approximately 60 to 65,000 years ago.
The decision by individuals in southern Africa to produce these uniform tools suggests social connectivity, according to Amy Way, the project’s lead archaeologist from the Australian Museum and the University of Sydney.
What makes this discovery particularly exciting is that it illustrates the existence of long-distance social connections among people just before the major migration out of Africa, involving all of our ancestors,” she added.
Archaeologists are intrigued by why this significant migration out of Africa, involving the ancestors of all present-day non-African populations, succeeded, unlike previous attempts to leave the continent.
“The prevailing theory is that social networks played a more influential role at that time.” “This research, for the first time, demonstrates that these social connections existed in southern Africa just before the exodus,” explained Way.
The tool served various purposes, including cutting, drilling, and skinning.
Previous research has revealed that these artifacts were employed as barbs in hunting technology in southern Africa. In Australia, they were used for working with bone and hide, as well as drilling and shaping wooden objects, in addition to forming armatures for spears. Notably, the same tool type has now been found 1,200 kilometers apart in Africa.
“One hundred kilometers would have taken five days to travel by foot, indicating that there was likely a vast network of groups in contact with neighboring groups,” she elucidated.
Another intriguing aspect of this specific tool, known as the backed artefact, is that it was independently created by numerous groups worldwide, including Australia.
“I compared some of the Australian shapes from 5,000 years ago with African shapes from 65,000 years ago – as they can’t possibly be related – to demonstrate that the southern African tools all fall within a broader range of potential shapes,” Way elaborated.
More information: Way, A.M., de la Peña, P., de la Peña, E. et al. (2022). Howiesons Poort backed artifacts provide evidence for social connectivity across southern Africa during the Final Pleistocene. Sci Rep 12, 9227. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-12677-5