as far as Lower Paleolithic Archeology says, this is just the thing: Experts have discovered 98 elephant-bone tools at a site dating back about 400,000 years. This discovery could change the way we think about how some early humans – like Neanderthals Style tools like this one.
The bones were collected from a place called Castel di Guido, near modern-day Rome. In the dark and distant past, it was a famous watering hole for the now extinct straight-toothed elephant (Palaeoloxodon), and it appears that a large number of animals died there as well.
This newly identified set of tools shows that the ancient humans at Castel di Guido didn’t waste the remaining bones, but instead created a primitive production line with methods we hadn’t seen before in the distant past, at least not to this extent.
“We’re seeing other sites with bone tools at this time,” Archaeologist Paula Villa says:, from the University of Colorado Boulder. “But there is not that diversity in well-defined shapes.”
“At Castel di Guido, humans were standardly breaking the long bones of elephants and producing standard blanks for making bone tools. It wasn’t until much later that this kind of efficiency became popular.”
Based on evidence collected from other sites, early humans usually used whatever bone fragments were available, without refining or adapting them – but at Castel di Guido, it was different.
The technique they used is known as Pumpkin falling, or cutting up bits of bone using a separate tool to make specific tools. Stone tools could have been shaped in a similar way, and were more common at this time, which makes the discovery of 98 bone tools a surprise.
The researchers note that this does not mean that the ancient humans living here were particularly “intelligent”. The explanation may simply be that they had more elephant bones to work with than other groups, and less access to large pieces of natural flint for stone tool making instead.
The tools they produced included those that might have been used to cut meat, as well as wedges that could have been deployed to create force to break up large bones such as elephant bones.
“First you make a groove where you can insert these heavy bits with a cutting edge,” Villa says. “And then you knock it down and it breaks a bone at some point.”
One of the most interesting tools discovered on the site is what is known as smootherA long, smooth bone at one end that could have been used to treat the skin. These types of tools only became popular about 300,000 years ago.
Because of the variety of types of tools here, and the techniques used to create them, archaeologists may have to recalibrate timelines for when these tools were originally developed and the methods for their production.
For now, this seems like an isolated breakthrough in bone production technology. Based on the available evidence, researchers believe that Neanderthals occupied the site and produced the indices that are now cataloged.
“About 400,000 years ago, I began to see the usual use of fire, the beginning of the Neanderthal dynasty,” Villa says. “This is a very important period for Castel de Guido.”
The search was published in PLUS ONE.