CBC News Posted: Nov 16, 2012 1:47 PM ET Last Updated: Nov 16, 2012 4:04 PM ET
A University of Toronto-led team of anthropologists has found evidence that human ancestors used stone-tipped weapons for hunting animals 500,000 years ago — 200,000 years earlier than previously thought.
"This changes the way we think about early human adaptations and capacities before the origin of our own species," says Jayne Wilkins, a PhD candidate in the department of anthropology at the University of Toronto and lead author of a new study in Science magazine.
"Although both Neanderthals and humans used stone-tipped spears, this is the first evidence that the technology originated prior to or near the divergence of these two species."
Attaching stone points to spears — known as "hafting" — was an important advance in hunting weaponry for early humans, says Wilkins. Hafted tools require more effort and foreplanning to manufacture, but a sharp stone point on the end of a spear can increase its killing power.
Hafted spear tips are common in Stone Age archaeological sites beginning about 300,000 years ago. This new study shows that they were also used in the early Middle Pleistocene, a period associated with the Homo heidelbergensis species, who were the last common ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans.
"It explains why we share some traits with the Neanderthals, we share a common ancestor," said Wilkins in an interview that airs on Quirks & Quarks on Saturday.
Stringer's new theory, based on archeological and genetic evidence, holds that distinct humans coexisted and competed across the African continent—exchanging genes, tools, and behavioral strategies.
Stringer draws on analyses of old and new fossils from around the world, DNA studies of Neanderthals (using the full genome map) and other species, and recent archeological digs to unveil his new theory. He shows how the most sensational recent fossil findings fit with his model, and he questions previous concepts (including his own) of modernity and how it evolved... http://us.macmillan.com/lonesurvivors/ChrisStringer
No comments at all from anyone? 200,000 years is a rather long time, I think, to have erred on until now.