Or not.

A repost

Much is made of the early use of stone tools by human ancestors. Darwin saw the freeing of the hands ad co-evolving with the use of the hands to make and use tools which co-evolved with the big brain. And that would make the initial appearance of stone tools in the archaeological record a great and momentous thing. However, things did not work out that way.

It turns out that up-rightedness (bipedalism), which would free the hands, evolved in our ancestors a very long time (millions of years) prior to our first record of stone tools. The earliest upright hominids that are definitely human ancestors probably emerged either close to five million years ago or close to seven million years ago, depending on which of the current evidence you like and how you interpret it. The earliest chipped stone tools are a little over 2.5 million years ago.

Furthermore, at that time there was not necessarily any real increase in brain size. Maybe a little in one or two hominid lineages, but it is not clear which hominid lineage(s) were making stone tools in relation to the brain size and the increase in size is unimpressive to the extent that it is probably safe to say that as more fossils are found and more data analyzed it could go away.

It is true that about the same time stone tools show up (give or take a couple/few hundred thousand years) there may have been an increase in species of hominds, and/or an increase in some of the features that they shared, such as whopping big teeth and the skeletal and muscular aparatus to use those teeth. But it is also true, as Alison Brooks and I have shown in various analyses, that it is just as likely if not more likely that the appearance of stone tools in the archaeological record at that point in time is a function of how the arcaheoligcal record is formed. We beleive that it is fairly likely that chipped stone tools were already in use and simply became visible to us at this point. Maybe.

Which brings us to some very serious speculation, but what the heck: I think that what it takes, mentally or neurologically, to make this early, relatively simple stone tool technology is well within the range of capacities I can imagine for a chimp-like hominid. True, modern chimps have a hard time making stone tools, but their “hands” are not “freed” like a more bipedal hominids’ hands would be. The mental/neurological part is not so hard. In a series of experiments some years ago, started by Glynn Isaac, we had many dozen Harvard Undergraduates, who had no prior exposure to stone tool manufacture, bang rocks together (in isolation) for the sole purpose of making sharp edged pieces. All of them managed to replicate most of the products in a typical Oldowan industry in just several minutes. The collection of any dozen or so of these students’ produce includes all of the Oldowan “tool” forms.

The Oldowan is the outcome of breaking rocks.

As to the impact that Oldowan style technology would have on the life of a chimp-like human ancestor? This would probably be as important as any other single aspect of foraging strategy. I imagine they were mainly making sharp edges in order to sharpen sticks, or to cut into things (or both), which would have increased the range of possibilities for accessible foods at the same level that, for instance, cooperative hunting that we see in the Tai chimps of West Africa. Important. Not necessarily overwhelmingly important.

Comments

  1. #1 IanW
    February 10, 2010

    You never heard of Olduwan Kenobi? He was an important tool in the fight against the empire….

  2. #2 NewEnglandBob
    February 10, 2010

    I suspect that “many dozen Harvard Undergraduates” are representative of our species.

    They should retry the experiment with many dozen sanitation workers or employees of the Registry of Motor Vehicles and see what develops.

    PS: bribing with beer is not allowed.

  3. #3 Baruk
    February 10, 2010

    New Enlgand Bob: What are you saying, exactly?

  4. #4 daedalus2u
    February 10, 2010

    Modern humans have levels of manual dexterity that are many orders of magnitude greater than that of other primates. Acquisition of nut cracking skill by capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) using stones as hammer and anvil takes about 2 years and requires considerable repetitive nonproductive effort while watching proficient individuals.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15719240?

    How long would it take a human to learn to crack nuts? A few minutes?

    You are making the mistake of projecting that it can’t be that hard because it is easy for you. It is easy for you because you already have the manual dexterity that a couple million years of evolution have developed in humans.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    How long would it take a human to learn to crack nuts? A few minutes?

    We actually know this. No, not a few minutes. To be as good as chimps, several hours practice over several days. But the best humans are way better than chimps, and that takes a much longer time (there are very few super-cracker experts, but they are the product of years of practice and can do any kind of nut with nearly zero splintering or mushing of nut).

  6. #6 Paul S.
    February 10, 2010

    They should retry the experiment with many dozen sanitation workers or employees of the Registry of Motor Vehicles and see what develops.

    I would think that people who do jobs that require a lot of manual work would be likely to learn it even faster than the college students.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    I should clarify: I don’t mean several hours of practice a day for several days. I mean a total of several hours but distributed over days (so the learning is better).

  8. #8 Charles
    February 10, 2010

    It wouldn’t surprise we if we eventually discover conclusive evidence that some australopithecines were making stone tools.

  9. #9 Iain
    February 10, 2010

    See how easily cutting and sharpening sticks just smuggled in there. No evidence of this in chimps in the wild, is there? Sure they can learn it in the lab, but it is a major and relatively unheralded achievement in hominin evolution.
    Davidson, I., and W. C. McGrew. 2005. Stone tools and the uniqueness of human culture. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 11:793-817.

  10. #10 Kaiser
    February 10, 2010

    Sharpening sticks to dig up roots, no doubt!

  11. #11 DrugMonkey
    February 10, 2010

    Perhaps not sharpening exactly, but making a termite foraging stick brushier at the tip would seem to relate Iain. At least on chimp managed this.

  12. #12 DrugMonkey
    February 10, 2010

    and dude, you should totally make a JoVE video of some people knapping flints. That would be awesome.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    Ian, this is a problem, isn’t it?

    I don’t quite see a chimp sharpening a stick with a flake. But there are those, as you know, who see wood working on the flakes. I’m not going to defend that position, but I’m not going to rule it out either.

    So either we have more advanced hominids back a bit farther in time than the fossils suggest, allow for the fossils to suggest a more advanced hominid, have the flakes be used for very rudimentary purposes, reconceive australopiths, or find believable modification of tools by chimps.

    As to the relative timing (Brooks and Laden) the same can be said of the fossils as the stone. (but in differnt ways)

  14. #14 Iain
    February 10, 2010

    I am prepared to argue this till the cows come home. There are serious problems with a research strategy which explains away all differences between chimps and hominins. If we want to understand how the creatures that became us differentiated from those ancestors that became chimpanzees i believe we should start by forming hypotheses about the differences between humans and chimpanzees.
    So, i think there is a conceptual (hence cognitive) difference between “cutting” and what chimps do. Modifying objects which remain the same object is not the same as stripping leaves off a grass stem. BUt neither is stripping leaves off a grass stem the same as cutting bits of wood off a stick to make a shape in the stick that was not there before. Cutting meat off a carcase is not the same as ripping a limb of a monkey. I’ll start there.
    Then, as our 2005 paper showed, the other feature that stone tools give you is the debris from knapping.
    And finally, Greg, the Lokalalei cores are a long way from the classic conception of Oldowan (however much I like the characterisation of Oldowan that your experiments with Glyn depends on).

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    I agree completely. The problem is, I just don’t know what an Australopith is. Also, I am not impressed at all with our ability to put terminal dates on the hominds. Also, I am not impressed (as are you not as well) with the pre- Bed I Oldowan = Oldowan equivalence, but flakes are flakes and if all we are talking is flakes, then things like raw material may be more important.

  16. #16 AnneT
    February 10, 2010

    The Australopithecus (or Paranthropus) hand is more human like than chimp like. Well, some of them are anyway.

  17. #17 Iain
    February 10, 2010

    Agreed. In the end I run away from the skeletal classifications. I know it is a cop out, but I think there is too much that depends on the methods. As I result I am not sure you can do much if you start from the classifications of the fossils.
    I should also note that there is a really serious crisis in classification caused by the controversy over H. floresiensis (or whatever you might want to call it). Here is a creature that seems to have been around since earlier than the move on (most) modern humans out of Africa/SWAsia, that has been classified as closest to Australopiths (which are otherwise unknown outside Africa), H. erectus, Homo sapiens but sick, Homo sapiens but small. If Physical anthropology cannot agree on the position in the whole scale of hominins of a creature which is known from an almost complete skeleton, then there is something seriously problematic about the methods of classification. I am not taking sides for this argument, though I have a view. The objective statement of the methodological problem is uncontestable (except by someone who is absolutely committed to one of the classifications). But the methodological problem carries through to all classifications of hominin skeletal remains, most of which is actually less complete than LB1.
    As it happens, Mark Moore’s analysis of the stone tools is probably one of the best of many good analyses from Liang Bua–but I would say that about my student’s work, wouldn’t I.

  18. #18 Paul
    February 10, 2010

    It seems to me that if you have enough chimps, and enough sticks, and enough rocks … and maybe some M&Ms

  19. #19 Iain
    February 10, 2010

    That experiment has been done (without the m&ms) and it produced chimps. NO cutting–even when the chimps miss nuts on stone anvils and make flakes.

    Of course Kanzi and Panbanisha responded extremely well to the m&m scenario (with onions and potatoes in my experience) and make good stone flakes. But like some people other than archaeologists intent on stone tool classification, the flakes were what they wanted cos they were sharp enough to cut the string to open the box.

  20. #20 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    Iain: I agree that the taxonomy is not as helpful as one would like. Sts 5 is now a classic object lesson in transgender and transmorphological hominids.

    I like to think of there being a regular and robust (toothwise) model head and a chimpy and a homo-y model body, which might or might not come in all possible (four) combinations with sufficient geographic coverage that maybe there are two or more geographic “species” per morphological species, for the period of time from 3-point-something to whenever they end (two or one point something).

    I like to think of the robust form (or robust end of the spectrum) as the same as the regular model but with more of whatever it is that is making the teeth big, etc.

    And, of course, I like to think of what is making the teeth big, etc. the eating of USOs. Of that I’m more sure now than ever.

    The thing is, related to your earlier comment about chimp-human differences being the key framework (and I agree with that), these “classic” australopiths are different from chimps in ways that are not like Homo (as you know, as we all know) thus complicating the matter.

    Oh, and let’s throw this in for fun: Our work lately has been with root eating adaptations in rodents. So, one of the other major root eating lifestyle to emerge in the savannas and semi arid regions of Africa is, of course, a eusocial creature. Just sayin’

  21. #21 Blind Squirrel
    February 10, 2010

    It’s not necessary that early hominids broke rocks to obtain sharp edges. They would only have had to bend over and pick them up. Natural fires simultaneously heat treat and flake exposed flint to produce very sharp flakes. I have seen this. The deliberate flaking may have come later.

    BS

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    Blind: The quality, consistency, and availability of sharp edges from fire cracked rock vs. flaked stone are quite different. For the most part the kind of rock that is likely to crack from fire is actually different from the kind of rock one wants to flake, and the angles obtained and percentage of sharp edge surface you get from flaking are very different.

    However, yes, sharp rocks do exist in nature, and one might well expect their use by a chimp-like (or chimp-minded?) hominid as preceding and/or being different from flaked stone.

  23. #23 Blind Squirrel
    February 10, 2010

    Be aware that I specified flint. What I meant to make clear is that developing the idea of using sharp pieces of flint as edges was no more difficult than picking them up off the ground. I was not implying that the sole source of the flints was natural fire cracked rocks. Deliberate flaking would have come later. For one thing, heat treating is not all that ancient.
    I am aware of the difference in angles, efficiency etc, Having taught flint knapping for the last 15 years.

    BS

  24. #24 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    Ah, sorry, I missed that.

    So, what is the context in which you teach flint knapping? Do I know you? (Well, there are a lot of flint knappers out there, I suppose…)

  25. #25 Blind Squirrel
    February 10, 2010

    North House Folk School. There are quite a few knappers (but relative to what?), but not all that many teachers. Most teaching is done informally at knapp-ins. John Whittaker sometimes shows up at them.

    BS

  26. #26 Iain
    February 10, 2010

    I am way out of my depth on the classification stuff you write of, Greg, but growing a bit of sympathy for USOs. ON classification, my bias would be to be a lumper because I think that is the best way of getting at variation on which selection might have operated. I always remember Peter Brown saying that there were, indeed, two populations of people in the Australian skeletal record, rather as Thorne and Wolpoff claimed, but they were called Males and Females!

    I am perfectly happy that there might have been sharp stones to use in the environment (and of course there were the moment after the first knapping event was abandoned). But flint? Am I wrong about there being relatively little flint in Africa?

    But then the next question is: can we get any evidence to evaluate the hypothesis that naturally sharp stones might have been used? I would guess that we could sample them and do use-wear or residue analysis on them, but because of the lack of patterning implied by the hyothesis there may be too many to sample meaningfully.

  27. #27 Blind Squirrel
    February 10, 2010

    But then the next question is: can we get any evidence to evaluate the hypothesis that naturally sharp stones might have been used

    Hell, we don’t even have agreement on which flakes are natural and which are man-made. Witness the recent fiasco in Northern MN. Sorry, no link.

    BS

  28. #28 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    Am I wrong about there being relatively little flint in Africa?

    Aha, an interesting question. There is approximately zero flint in Africa. I know of none offhand, but it’s a big place, so maybe.

    A huge region of Africa (well, five or so regions) are cratonic heavily eroded hilly plains with really nothing but quartz and duracrust, and duracrust sucks. Well, so does quartz.

    There is chert, here and there.

    There is obsidian in a number of places.

    There are chert-like metamorphics that are somewhat more common, e.g. jasperite in large areas of South africa (my survey area’s main stone of choice).

    Basalt and various basalt-like or rhyolite-like (flow volcanics) rocks probably make up the bulk off Acheulean material for no other reason than the 12 or so sites in South Africa and a few in East Africa that make up something like 80 percent of the known lithic record by bulk they are so freakin’ big. (And I exaggerate by less than one order of magnitude).

    As you know, many people have written off raw material as a factor in technology. I have seen with my own eyes perfectly good “levelois” cores made of quartz and of jasperite (which is physically impossible to knap for a modern human, IMHO, without a geology hammer) so that may be true. But the range of these materials and overall crappiness of much of it and what looks to me like a vague correspondence between lithic “traditions” (or cultures or whatever you want to call them) and some of these raw material provinces makes me wonder.

  29. #29 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    I have no hope for testing the idea that naturally sharp stones from any distant past were used.

  30. #30 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    Blind Squirrel, did you see the Walker material?

  31. #31 Blind Squirrel
    February 10, 2010

    jasperite (which is physically impossible to knap for a modern human, IMHO,

    Indirect percussion with a copper billet,. Or lacking native copper, antler. Can’t be any worse than siltstone or jasper-taconite from Northern MN. I’ve done it.

    BS

  32. #32 Iain
    February 10, 2010

    Ok, it has been fun, but I guess that leaves us at a dead end, doesn’t it? An untestable hypotheses for which the most plausible conditions do not exist in the place they would need to. I am not one to criticise hypotheses for which there can be no evidence (having been accused of that–wrongly of course) but … :-)

  33. #33 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    Indirect percussion could work. But, there are no antlers in Africa, a major factor in the history of later periods of flintnapping. No copper in the region or time period either.

    I would assume some kind of special kickass hammerstone one of which I have never found, or mondo strength.

    I’m not an expert flintknapper, but I can make a flake come off a rock. But not with this jasperite. Yet, it was done.

  34. #34 Blind Squirrel
    February 10, 2010

    Blind Squirrel, did you see the Walker material?

    No, is it recent? And how do you distinguish between flint and chert?

    BS

  35. #35 Blind Squirrel
    February 10, 2010

    there are no antlers in Africa, a major factor in the history of later periods of flintnapping. No copper in the region or time period either.

    Ok, that’s a bit of a problem. However, I have seen pictures of natives using horn for indirect. Never tried it myself. I wish I had some of that jasperite. Me and a few of the boys would love a session with some challenge rock.

    BS

  36. #36 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    Semantics! Flint and chert are distinctly different in Old World terminology: Flint comes as nodules in limestone deposits. Chert is everything else (that is flint/chert).

    In the new world the terms are either used interchangeably or in some cases people have local preferences. In NY it is all chert. In other areas some things are called flint. In some places, if it is shinier it is flint. These are all superficial meaningless differences.

    SO, although my initial traiing was NW, I’ve been mainly OW since 1985, thus I classify the African material (chert) as selected cherts from duracrusts.

    Oh, there is flint/chert in some of the South African limestones, I think, but it is not used. I think it comes in tiny pieces. My memory on that is a bit vague.

    I have not seen the Northern Minnesota (Walker) material myself. I have no opinion on its age. Everyone I know involved or who has seen is is a respected expert and they seem to differ in their opinions. If anything is going on there this year I’d love to have a look.

  37. #37 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    BC, do you know what Tiger’s Eye is?

    The Tiger’s Eye is the yellowish, slightly glassier and sightly (very very slightly) harder layers of this jasperite. If I had some chunks I’d give it to you but alas, I don’t. But if you ever go to South Africa I can fix you up with my knapper friends there, and they can bring you to the Asbestos Hills to give it a try.

    I’d love to know about these pictures of natives using horn.

  38. #38 Blind Squirrel
    February 10, 2010

    Oh, the Walker material is from Norther MN. Hehehe. One of my knapping buddies is tight with a couple of the state archeologists. They claim that the only people who are enthusiastic about that material are the people on the dig. It’s all unifacial, indistinguishable from high velocity water cracked rocks. Also curiously indifferent to the type of rock used. I don’t have the picture of the horn indirect, sorry.

    BS

  39. #39 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    Iain, sorry your comment was moderated for a moment there. You said the magic word, I guess.

    Which is hopeless, the random sharp edge hypothesis, or the idea of flakes being used for making sharp sticks hypothesis?

    I don’t think hypotheses that specific are likely to be tested, either way.

  40. #40 Blind Squirrel
    February 10, 2010

    The tiger’s eye from Mexico is considered unknappable. It lacks any semblance of a concoidal fracture.
    Did you really mean to distinguish flint as occurring in limestone? The reason I ask is because the arbitrary definition I am most familiar with has flint occurring in chalk and the limestone product called chert.

    BS

  41. #41 Greg Laden
    February 11, 2010

    Yes indeed, chalk is what I mean to say. I was eve thinking chalk as I typed limestone, apparently.

  42. #42 Iain
    February 11, 2010

    OK you got me back. I was a little worried about the appearance of moderation (should never be in excess, hey). I am pretty sure the most untestable bit is the use of sharp rocks from the environment, my point being that it sounds as if that would be more implausible in an environment where there was little fine-grained siliceous rock such as flint.

    The other hypothesis has probably been tested and supported. When I was taken with meat-eating as the big difference, I, like so many others, looked at the Keeley and Toth use-wear analysis and said “see there is use-polish from cutting meat”. Now I tend to say, “but there were more flakes used for cutting plant material”.

    On a slightly different tack, I think that one of the problems of looking at very early stone tool use may be the straightjacket of the classification “Oldowan”. It does not make sense to me that the earliest use of stone tools should be expected to come in neat packages that archaeologists could label for the consistencies of flake production (and even sometimes label as a stone “industry”). I think this is a problem caused by the methods of archaeology. In any case, one of the things I enjoyed about writing the paper with Bill McGrew was that we ended up saying that, using the same criteria by which he had tried to evaluate the “cultural” status of the grooming hand clasp, we might not conclude that the earliest stone knapping was “cultural”.

    So the next question is presumably about the explanatory power of the different (untestable) hypotheses. And, as I say, I am now less interested in all those early apes than in the later stuff which has its own explanatory problems. But let us not get into that now, because I am meant to be writing something else.

  43. #43 LeeO
    April 12, 2010

    Of course the “mental/neurological” part of stone tool making is not
    so hard for Harvard undergraduates, trouble is, there were no
    grown-up Harvard undergraduates with 1300 cc sized brains 2.6 mya or before.
    There is a big problem with using Glynn Isaac’s students for test subjects;
    you are using subjects with an adult-human brain with a 20-year-old
    capacity for understanding.
    Repeat the experiment with potential Harvard undergraduates at age two
    or three (but do imagine them adult hand-eye co-ordination), the more or
    less accepted chronological age of the average chimp as compared to us.
    The Harvard underage students will flunk lithics 101, just as surely
    as Kanzi does and presumably so would all the hominids in the early record
    that weren’t directly related to the first tool makers c 2.6 mya.
    Flintknapping is no more teachable to 2/3 year olds than geometry, be
    they chimps or infant humans IMO.

  44. #44 Greg Laden
    April 12, 2010

    LeeO: The idea was not to replicate Australopiths. For that, we would just get some Brown students.

    The idea was to see what kinds of broken rocks the uniformed flintnapper would end up with, to investigate the hypothesis that the various “tool types” identified in the Oldowan are incidental rather than intentional.

  45. #45 LeeO
    April 12, 2010

    Yes, I’m familiar with your sense of humor :-)

    I was referring to the mental part: “I think that what it takes, mentally or neurologically, to make this early, relatively simple stone tool technology is well within the range of capacities I can imagine for a chimp-like hominid.”

    The earliest stone tools are not within chimps (or probably chimp-like hominid) capacity is what I was getting at if you are going to use chimps as an example.

    I don’t think you are correct in saying “simple stone tool technology” or “The mental/neurological part is not so hard.” It is hard for a chimp (and presumably anything chimp-like at or before ca. 2.5 myr). A chimps hands really don’t prevent them from making stone tools. After all, Kanzi uses the flakes to cut tough string, which IMO is harder to do than the knapping for his hand structure.

  46. #46 Greg Laden
    April 12, 2010

    Then we disagree. The point of the Harvard experiment was to demonstrate that the mental templates needed to make a technology with a couple of dozen tool types was not relevant to explain the transition to using Oldowan technology tools, as was previously thought.

    Chimps and orangs have been shown capable of using stone tools and many other hand-operated devices. Signficant efforts to teach Kanzi to flintknap and similar efforts to teach an Orang to flintknap were utter failures.

    So, great ape generally speaking can do things like:

    Make spaghetti
    Modify sticks for termiting
    Make sponges
    Make shoes to climb up thorny branches
    Dig a “well” to access water
    Disassemble a car
    Use a commercial-level svea type stove (i.e., light it) which involves a two stage pressurized process.
    Do laundry
    many other things.

    In other words, the non-human great apes seem to be able to do lots of things mentally, and making Oldowan type tools is NOT hard. So, I assert that the Oldowan limit is physical and not mental.

  47. #47 LeeO
    April 12, 2010

    http://tinyurl.com/y6l5xfv
    As I understand it, the students from Brown did slightly
    better than those from Harvard.
    Elephants have fine memories also.

    Chimps can be taught lots of neat tricks in the lab, I
    agree, but so can pigs. Sea otters, seagulls, and Egytian vultures also use rocks to obtain food.

    The very fact that chimps can do all of your examples only further demonstrates they do not have a manual deficiency.

    It’s what chimps can’t do that counts.

    Can they reassemble the car once they have torn it apart?

    Can they draw a simple stick figure of themselves as well as elephants draw elephants?

    Elephants dig for water also, so do monkeys, still doesn’t demonstrate a capacity to make Oldowan tools.

    Conchoidal fracture. Here chimps score zero. And it is not their hands that is the problem, they actually can do better
    than humans if they cheat and used their feet to hold on to the rock. They have a mental problem with this Oldowan feature, not a physical one.

    Thomas Wynn was right on when he thought some parts of the knapping process require three dimensional visualization.
    He had handaxes in mind, which are not in the Oldowan, but after lookng at the Lokalalei 2C work, the same thinking was going on there too, it just wasn’t expanded upon.

    Just because Ford’s T’s were crude looking doesn’t mean the Mustang engineers were smarter than Henry.

    While kids and chimps may do fine early on tying shoelaces, lighting stoves, picking locks, and many other things it
    doen’t mean that kids or chimps can grasp the ideas in the
    Gona knapping tech.

    So far, there has been nothing to demonstrate that chimps or the alleged australopithecines could make Oldowan stone tools.

  48. #48 Greg Laden
    April 12, 2010

    Leeo: If we confine the list of tool using behavior to non-lab settings, it does not get much shorter. If the items on my list, only making spaghettii would be removed. The rest are natural populations of chimps or orangs that infiltrated human settings and did these things.

    That they can do these things does not speak to a manual deficiency. They have different hands than we do and one would expect differences in what they can and can not do. The word deficiency does not really even come into play here.

    I would LOVE to get the reference from you for monkeys digging for water. Also, your references for chimps making better stone tools than humans. Please post here or send as emails! Thanks.

    There is a distinct difference betwee hand axe industries n the Oldowan.

    You seem to be arguing that I should not equate human cognition with chimp cognition. But I’m pretty sure I didn’t!

  49. #49 LeeO
    April 12, 2010

    Emails, yes.

    Monkeys digging for water citation? You are going to
    force me to go back through every publication and
    every book the Leakey’s ever wrote? That would be like a death sentence
    (not that I didn’t enjoy them on a one-time
    basis) but, maybe I will get lucky, I’ll take a look.

    I’ve been flintknapping for 19 years, this guy has better
    form than I do…all he needs is a conchoidal-fractured brain to go with it.
    http://tinyurl.com/9pkscq

    Later…

  50. #50 Greg Laden
    April 12, 2010

    New World Monkeys: Meh!

    Capuchin monkeys have a larger relative brain size than any primate, by the way! (Human included)

    So it is Leakey? Louis? Does not ring a bell. Makes me wish my books were search-enabled!

  51. #51 LeeO
    April 13, 2010

    Greg: Maybe we could solve a few misunderstandings?

    1) I’m counting any intervention between apes and humans as lab induced, even if it occurred in the wild.
    Just because apes wash clothes doesn’t mean they have a clue as to why they do it, it just means they like to ape human actions. Flintknapping requires thinking, I’m not
    convinced pretending to wash clothes or your other examples are on the same mental wavelength as to what early hominids were doing at Gona.

    2) Of course ape hands are different, but my point is you don’t need a needle-threading-precision grip to make stone tools.

    3) I haven’t found the Leakey quote, but this is just as good:
    http://tinyurl.com/y9ennre
    “Additionally, the hamadryas baboons will often dig for water during the dry season.”

    4) “Also, your references for chimps making better stone
    tools than humans. Please post here or send as emails! Thanks.”

    I think I said they could *hold* rock better, not make them better!

    5) Yes, there are some differences between the later handaxe industries, but different doesn’t make them more complex from a “mental/neurological” standpoint.
    http://tinyurl.com/y54hjo9

    6)
    “You seem to be arguing that I should not equate human cognition
    with chimp cognition. But I’m pretty sure I didn’t!”

    “chimp-like” and “mental/neurological” seems to be saying chimp and Harvard tests with humans seems to be tying the two together.
    Maybe you didn’t mean it that way, it just seems that way to me.

  52. #52 Greg Laden
    April 13, 2010

    Regarding number 5, I deeply disagree. Hand axe making and the acheulean industry are a very different thing than oldown “tool” making and the oldowan industry.

    This does not mean that the Oldowan did not require impressive capabilities of planning, but until we find consistent evidence of pre-acheulean tool use where the tools are other than what the above mentioned Harvard students made (with no training), and using materials demonstraby carried great distances, or producing tools that were demonstrably carried dozens/hundreds of kilometers, or used for long periods of time, I’m considering them different, very different things.

    Again, the Harvard UG experiment was to see what untrained, ingenuous individuals would come up with under the simplest arrangement possible with humans. And they came up with the odowan. The humans were not chimps and this experiment does not say anything directly about chimps.

    Chimp production of tools and use of technology is sufficient to convince me that among apes, a stone tool technology not that different from the Oldowan/Harvard UG technology is not entirely outrageous to imagine.

    By the way, and a flint knapper you will appreciate this, I do not know of a single source of “good” raw material for flint knapping at any active field research site with chimps, and if you drew a map of Africa showing where good materials might be found, and a map of where apes are found today, they would have very little overlap.

  53. #53 Greg Laden
    April 13, 2010

    Ah, interesting. hamadryas dig for water. Of course, they also eat underground storage organs of plants, so they are a digging monkey, and thus not qualified to stand in for the cognition related question at hand.

    BTW, the chimps that dig wells …. they are not digging for water. They are digging the wells, from which they drink, 10 to 20 meters away from a river from which they could easily drink.

    Why do you suppose they do that?

    Well, because of a remarkably human-like bit of forethought and planning. I’ll let you guess the reason!!!

  54. #54 LeeO
    April 13, 2010

    number 5
    The Harvard test is out-of-date by 10 years. It tested
    for what was thought to be Oldowan at that time. If you repeated the same tests today, demanding what was found
    at Lokalalie 2C, they would flunk as badly as Kanzi.

    As a knapper, you know that before you make a handaxe, you have to have basic flintknapping 101 down pat. Every prerequisite required to make a handaxe is in the record at
    2C. Before there were handaxes, there were protohandaxes (many workers gave up on the term handaxes and simply say bifaces). So I will call Acheulean “biface” industries also. First, one has to know concoidal fracture.
    Then one has to know how to run a repetitious series of flakes, to near or past centerline. I don’t need to see a biface in a pile
    of debitage to know if the person who made the pile could make a biface or not. If they can run flakes to the middle of a monoflake, then there is no reason at all to think they could not repeat the same process on the other side also and get a true biface.
    This criteria is met easily at 2C. There is nothing new or advanced about the Acheulean at all. They just made an add-on using the same previously known principles of knapping.

    Since chimps don’t get these basics at all, the Harvard test did show what Kanzi knew before his tests, how to smash nuts and apply that to smashing rock. After over 130
    hrs of knapping, the chimps can’t get past the smashed-rock
    barrier. It takes 30 lbs. of flint and 30 hrs. of intense instruction for a modern human to produce a stage 3 biface.

    Why? We don’t have a mental deficiency and neither did the
    human-like creatures at 2C and we have to be over 7 years old to do so (according to Wynn).

  55. #55 Greg Laden
    April 13, 2010

    Are you seriously trying to school me on the lithic technologies of the Early Stone Age of Africa? Huh.

    Have you seen the material in question? Have you excavated, studied, handled very much ESA material?

    I don’t know of a single ESA assemblaged that does NOT have one or more researchers pulling for great minds at work in said assemblage. I challenge the premise, I do not question the conclusion.

    What are these proto-handaxes of which you speak?

  56. #56 LeeO
    April 13, 2010

    “Ah, interesting. hamadryas dig for water. Of course, they also eat underground storage organs of plants, so they are a digging monkey, and thus not qualified to stand in for the cognition related question at hand.”

    Exactly, just like the monkey nut smasher, the sea otter who uses and anvil and a hammerstone, and most of all, the woodpecker finch who uses a self-trimmed twig to fish for
    bugs in a hole in a tree, all just as chimps do for termites, and like
    chimps, all too stupid to make a 2C core (Kanzi, if you are reading this, I apologize for the derogatory remark, I’m just calling a spade a spade).

    “BTW, the chimps that dig wells …. they are not digging for water. They are digging the wells, from which they drink, 10 to 20 meters away from a river from which they could easily drink.

    Why do you suppose they do that?”

    For the same reason the baboons do it, to keep from being a croc meal.

    Well, because of a remarkably human-like bit of forethought and planning. I’ll let you guess the reason!!!

    Too late, like some Bushmen, I also camp two km from the water, I don’t want to be croc bait either or trambled by a hippo at night.

    Now I have one for you.
    Why do you suppose chimp youngsters take 7 years at their
    mothers side in order to learn the termite-fishing trade?

  57. #57 Greg Laden
    April 13, 2010

    LeeO, you seem to be on some sort of crusade to makes sure that I don’t think that chimps are too human like. I’m not. I don’t think they are very human like at all.

    I do think you are abysmally incorrect when you equate the differfent tool making examples you give as though they were all the same. Why would they be? That’s absurd.

    I was unaware that the Hamadryas baboons were evading crocs. That’s interesting. I shall await documentation that of that. (If I was not on the second floor with my leg attached to a machine I’d jump up and grab Kummer off the shelf, but that’s not happening just now!)

    So, what is your point? That Oldowan technology = super high level just like acheulean, and only humans can do that? Intersting. That leaves one million years of fossil record with no brain size changes and only chimp-like apes walking around making oldowan technologies.

    Which fits my model rather well.

    So, tell me what page I can find the baboons avoiding the crocs in Kumer’s monograph. Its not that I don’t believe you. I’d just like to read about it!

  58. #58 LeeO
    April 13, 2010

    School you? Wouldn’t think of it, I’ll let Roche and Semaw do that :-)

    Semaw 2000
    The World’s Oldest……
    Journal of Archaeological Science
    27, 1197-1214

    Page 1206 Fig. 6: 2, 5, and 8 for starters.

    Olduvai V monograph page 2 beds I and II, “proto-bifaces” page 5
    No need to cite it, you probably already have it.

    One more thing. I have probably made (1000s) more bifaces than you in the last 19 years. Each and every one of them went through the same process, at an early stage, as seen at 2C, before they ended up the finished product.

    Easy to test all this, round up some Harvard undergads and I’ll give them the test this time. We’ll see how they do
    in 2010. In fact, you can audit also, bet I can flunk you out also!

  59. #59 LeeO
    April 14, 2010

    “LeeO, you seem to be on some sort of crusade to makes sure that I don’t think that chimps are too human like. I’m not. I don’t think they are very human like at all.”

    You have misunderstood. I’m questioning your bringing chimps into this and saying the reason they failed at tool making is because of their hands. You are wrong about Oldowan being simple enough for chimps to understand. That is my only point about your article so far.

    “I do think you are abysmally incorrect when you equate the differfent tool making examples you give as though they were all the same. Why would they be? That’s absurd.”

    I’m not. I demonstrated that what chimps are doing *is simple*
    and Oldowan is *not* simple enough for chimps or any of the other tool using creatures to master.

    That’s exactly what I’m saying. You said “chimp-like”
    and I’m saying “human-like” is 10X closer to the facts.

    “So, what is your point? That Oldowan technology = super high level just like acheulean, and only humans can do that? Intersting. That leaves one million years of fossil record with no brain size changes and only chimp-like apes walking around making oldowan technologies.

    Well, take a look at the dismal record of a million plus
    years of Oldowan-like in SE Asia. It doesn’t mean they couldn’t do better with larger brains, they just didn’t because flakes
    worked just as well for what they needed. Argue with Wynn about it, I see what he sees….a seven year-old-making bifaces and by extension protobifaces. No chimps can learn the language of a 7-year-old, why would they be able to master conchoidal fracture etc.?

    “Which fits my model rather well.

    So, tell me what page I can find the baboons avoiding the crocs in Kumer’s monograph. Its not that I don’t believe you. I’d just like to read about it!”

    Again, I said “monkeys” dig for water and I gave you a monkey digging for water. I don’t see what Kumer has to do with that. I can give you a baboon digging water to avoid crocs, who cares what the species the baboon is? I have no idea what Kumer might think. But, I would be interested to
    know why you think a well ten feet from a river means chimps can master Oldowan tech, the mental part…
    “chimp-like” and “mental/neurological”

  60. #60 Greg Laden
    April 14, 2010

    Ah, Sileshi. Good friend. He took his first African Archeology grad seminar with me when I was post-docing at Milwaukee. It was great working with him then, as well as excavating 2.x mya sites with him on our crew later that year. I was happy to have been a mentor to him as he learned his African Archaeology from his prior background in history.

    Kibunjia, also in that seminar and in the field with us that year, originally work the Lokalalie material, and that is when I worked with it in my own limited way as well.

    Maybe I’m just thick, but I’m still not getting your point. Are you saying (seems to me that you are) that there are two kinds of being … everything else and humans, and your work with making lots of bifaces assures us that chimps are firmly in the other camp, indistinguishable from elephants and whatever, and humans in the other?

  61. #61 Tom S.
    April 14, 2010

    This is fun watching Lee-0 getting slapped upside the head, somewhat gently.

    I too am very interested in baboons digging wells away from a croc infested river. But if it is true, and it implies forethought and all that, it strengthens, not weakens, Laden’s case.

  62. #62 LeeO
    April 14, 2010

    IOW, you did find, just as I claimed, protobifaces that
    “Sileshi. Good friend.” forgot to tell you about.
    Doesn’t do much for your claim about simple Oldowan.

    Well, if I was right about the protobifaces, then you can take it to the bank I’m right about the baboon avoiding crocs at the edge of the water hole by digging away from it.

    But not enough forethought for the baboon or the chimp digging away from water to warrant claiming them mentally
    able to make the new and improved Oldowan protobifaces.

    So it looks like Roache, Wynn, and Mary Leakey are getting
    “getting slapped upside the head” right along with me.

    Think they will get a shot at peer review of Laden’s case?

    There is going to be a paper on the simple Oldowan, isn’t
    there?

  63. #63 Greg Laden
    April 14, 2010

    LeeO you are getting vaguer and vaguer, and you are not addressing the point of this discussion at all. Actually, I think you might be drinking heavily this late evening.

    Sober up, come back and say something that is a)understandable, b) interesting and c) not annoying, and I’ll let you keep playing.

    At this point you are quickly crossing the line from crazy flint knapper who read some stuff to that of a Troll. If the stuff you have to say is so overwhelmingly important that you’ll blurt it out regardless of the conversation you are supposedly participating in, like a drunk sitting on the stool at the bar two hours after the game to whom no one can speak because he just spits in your face while ranting about that bad call in the third inning,then start a blog of your own. It is not hard.

    If, rather, you prefer to come here, blather and dither to the point of distraction, and then begin to insult me, you are gone. I do not maintain this blog for your amusement. It is for my amusement. And you are no longer amusing.

    Your future comments will be monitored for content and tone prior to being posted.

  64. #64 LeeO
    April 14, 2010

    Greg:
    In a long series of posts no one else had joined in.
    I did not notice it was Tom S who made that last post,
    I thought it was you and I responded to it accordingly. So
    if you find my last post insulting blathering ditter
    then I do apologize for that mistake.

    But at the same time, if I clearly state that chimps can grab a rock better than humans and you reply back asking for a citation about how chimps can make better tools than humans, I know the problems in communication can’t be all
    mine.

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