Bow-and-arrow, technology of the first modern humans in Europe 54,000 years ago at Mandrin, France
Metz et al.
Science Advances, 2023
Consensus in archaeology has posited that mechanically propelled weapons, such as bow-and-arrow or spear-thrower-and-dart combinations, appeared abruptly in the Eurasian record with the arrival of anatomically and behaviorally modern humans and the Upper Paleolithic (UP) after 45,000 to 42,000 years (ka) ago, while evidence for weapon use during the preceding Middle Paleolithic (MP) in Eurasia remains sparse. The ballistic features of MP points suggest that they were used on hand-cast spears, whereas UP lithic weapons are focused on microlithic technologies commonly interpreted as mechanically propelled projectiles, a crucial innovation distinguishing UP societies from preceding ones. Here, we present the earliest evidence for mechanically propelled projectile technology in Eurasia from Layer E of Grotte Mandrin 54 ka ago in Mediterranean France, demonstrated via use-wear and impact damage analyses. These technologies, associated with the oldest modern human remains currently known from Europe, represent the technical background of these populations during their first incursion into the continent.
Re-considering the origins of Old World spearthrower-and-dart hunting
Quaternary Science Reviews, 2022
The development of hunting weapons from spears to spearthrowers to bows is universally accepted and seldom questioned. Yet, proxy evidence from Pleistocene Eurasia suggests that bow hunting may have been in play before, or contemporaneous with spearthrower-and-dart hunting. If this was the case, it raises questions about how we think about the origins of spearthrower-and-dart hunting during the late Pleistocene. To address the topic, I summarise direct evidence for Eurasian spearthrowers and analyse their adaptive potential for Homo sapiens groups during MIS 2 as a contextual innovation – instead of a sequential development. I predict that if spearthrowers were used in Africa, it may have been in the Palearctic during a green-Sahara phase, instead of in the more biodiverse Afrotropic that would have stimulated the invention of bow hunting.
Archaeological evidence for thinking about possibilities in hominin evolution
Kraft et al.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 2022
The origins of human cumulative culture: from the foraging niche to collective intelligence [Texte]
Migliano & Vinicius
Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society B., 2021
Recent ethnographic, archaeological and genetic studies have provided compelling evidence that the components of the foraging niche (social egalitarianism, sexual and social division of labour, extensive co-residence and cooperation with unrelated individuals, multilocality, fluid sociality and high between-camp mobility) engendered a unique multilevel social structure where the cognitive mechanisms underlying cultural evolution (high-fidelity transmission, innovation, teaching, recombination, ratcheting) evolved as adaptations. Therefore, multilevel sociality underlies a ‘social ratchet’ or irreversible task specialization splitting the burden of cultural knowledge across individuals, which may explain why human collective intelligence is uniquely able to produce sophisticated cumulative culture.
Variation in hunting weaponry for more than 300,000 years: A tip cross-sectional area study of Middle Stone Age points from southern Africa [Texte]
Quaternary Science Reviews, 2021
There is a general trend through time towards smaller weapon tips until reaching arrow-tip range during the MIS 4 glacial.
Light-weight javelins, similar to those used by African hunters today may have been in play since almost 200,000 years ago.
Evidence of technical variability and complexity does not align with evidence of an increase in human population size.
(Une introduction très intéressante avec l’histoire de la controverse depuis Dart)
New evidence of bone tool use by Early Pleistocene hominins from Cooper’s D, Bloubank Valley, South Africa [PDF]
Hanon et al.
Journal of archaeological science: reports, 2021
Here we describe a bone tool from Cooper’s D. The deposit, dated between 1.4 and 1.0 Ma, has yielded seven P. robustus remains and 50 stone artefacts. Our results highlight similarities in morphology and use-wear patterns between the Cooper’s D bone tool and those previously identified at nearby Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Drimolen. Our findings increase the number of Early Stone Age bone tools and provide further evidence of their association with P. robustus. They suggest P. robustus had the cognitive capacities to develop this cultural adaptation and the manipulative abilities to implement it.
Bone tools from Beds II–IV, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, and implications for the origins and evolution of bone technology [PDF]
Pante et al.
Journal of human evolution, 2020
The confirmed tools include the oldest preform of a barbed bone point that predates others by at least 700 kyr.
Homo erectus was likely the primary maker and user of bone tools at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania.
Aspects of human physical and behavioural evolution during the last 1 million years [PDF]
Galway-Witham et al.
Journal of quaternary science, 2019
This paper reviews some of the main advances in our understanding of human evolution over the last 1 million years, presenting a holistic overview of a field defined by interdisciplinary approaches to studying the origins of our species. We begin by briefly summarizing the climatic context across the Old World for the last 1 million years before directly addressing the fossil and archaeological records. The main themes in this work explore (i) recent discoveries in the fossil record over the last 15 years, such as Homo naledi and Homo floresiensis; (ii) the implications of palaeogenetics for understanding the evolutionary history of, and relationships between, Neanderthals, Denisovans and Homo sapiens; (iii)the interplay between physiology and metabolic demand, landscape use, and behavioural adaptations in the evolution of morphological and behavioural innovation; and (iv) recent advances in archaeological understanding for the behavioural record, in particular that of the Neanderthals. This paper seeks to provide a broad‐scale, holistic perspective of our current understanding of human evolution for the last 1 Ma, providing a reference point for researchers that can be built upon as new discoveries continue to develop the landscapes of human evolution.
External ballistics of Pleistocene hand-thrown spears: experimental performance data and implications for human evolution [Texte]
Milks et al.
Nature Scientific Reports, 2019
Overlaps in distances and impact energies between hand-thrown spears and spearthrowers are evidenced, and skill emerges as a significant factor in successful use. The results show that distance hunting was likely within the repertoire of hunting strategies of Neanderthals, and the resulting behavioural flexibility closely mirrors that of our own species.
Earliest known Oldowan artifacts at >2.58 Ma from Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia, highlight early technological diversity
Braun et al.
Identifying early modern human ecological niche expansions and associated cultural dynamics in the South African Middle Stone Age [PDF]
D’Errico et al.
The archaeological record shows that typically human cultural traits emerged at different times, in different parts of the world, and among different hominin taxa.
[…] These results counter the one niche/one human taxon equation. They indicate that what makes our cultures, and probably the cultures of other members of our lineage, unique is their flexibility and ability to produce innovations that allow a population to shift its ecological niche.
The extension of biology through culture [PDF]
Whiten et al.
Recent decades have revealed that social learning and the transmission of cultural traditions are much more widespread in the animal kingdom than earlier suspected, affecting numerous forms of functional behavior and creating a secondary form of evolution, built onto the better-known primary, genetically based form. New scientific approaches to the study of human cultural evolution have also emerged and become productive. However, these developments in the study of cultural phenomena in both human and nonhuman animals have yet to be seriously integrated into mainstream evolutionary biology.
Biface distributions and the Movius Line: A Southeast Asian perspective [PDF]
Brumm & Moore
Australian archeology, 2012
The ‘Movius Line’ is the putative technological demarcation line mapping the easternmost geographical distribution of Acheulean bifacial tools. It is traditionally argued by proponents of the Movius Line that ‘true’ Acheulean bifaces, especially handaxes, are only found in abundance in Africa and western Eurasia, whereas in eastern Asia, in front of the ‘line’, these implements are rare or absent altogether. Here we argue, however, that the Movius Line relies on classifying undated surface bifaces as Acheulean on typological grounds alone, a long-standing and widely accepted practice in Africa and western Eurasia, but one that is not seen as legitimate in eastern Asian contexts. A review of the literature shows that bifaces are relatively common as surface finds in Southeast Asia and on this basis we argue that the Movius Line is in need of reassessment.
Evidence for early hafted hunting technology [PDF]
Jayne Wilkins et al.
Hafting stone points to spears was an important advance in weaponry for early humans. Multiple lines of evidence indicate that ~500,000-year-old stone points from the archaeological site of Kathu Pan 1 (KP1), South Africa, functioned as spear tips. KP1 points exhibit fracture types diagnostic of impact. Modification near the base of some points is consistent with hafting. Experimental and metric data indicate that the points could function well as spear tips. Shape analysis demonstrates that the smaller retouched points are as symmetrical as larger retouched points, which fits expectations for spear tips. The distribution of edge damage is similar to that in an experimental sample of spear tips and is inconsistent with expectations for cutting or scraping tools. Thus, early humans were manufacturing hafted multicomponent tools ~200,000 years earlier than previously thought.
An early and enduring advanced technology originating 71,000 years ago in South Africa [PDF]
Brown et al.
Microliths were common worldwide by the mid-Holocene epoch, but have a patchy pattern of first appearance that is rarely earlier than 40,000 years ago9,10, and were thought to appear briefly between 65,000 and 60,000 years ago in South Africa and then disappear. Our research extends this record to ∼71,000 years, shows that microlithic technology originated early in South Africa, evolved over a vast time span (∼11,000 years), and was typically coupled to complex heat treatment that persisted for nearly 100,000 years. Advanced technologies in Africa were early and enduring; a small sample of excavated sites in Africa is the best explanation for any perceived ‘flickering’ pattern.
Two Key Steps in the Evolution of Human Cooperation The Interdependence Hypothesis [Texte]
Tomasello et al.
Current anthropology, 2012
In a first step, humans became obligate collaborative foragers such that individuals were interdependent with one another and so had a direct interest in the well-being of their partners. In this context, they evolved new skills and motivations for collaboration not possessed by other great apes (joint intentionality), and they helped their potential partners (and avoided cheaters). In a second step, these new collaborative skills and motivations were scaled up to group life in general, as modern humans faced competition from other groups.
Evolution, Revolution or Saltation Scenario for the Emergence of Modern Cultures ? [Texte]
d’Errico & Stringer
Philosophical transactions of the royal society B biological sciences, 2011
Our review of the evidence contradicts the idea that the emergence of crucial technological innovations and symbolic material culture was the result of a sudden change in human cognition occurring in Europe or Africa approximately 40–50 ka, or just in Africa approximately 60–80 ka.
From hominins to humans: how sapiens became behaviourally modern [Texte]
Philosophical transactions of the royal society B, 2011
So, instead of seeing behavioural modernity as a simple reflection of a new kind of mind, this paper presents a niche construction conceptual model of behavioural modernity. Humans became behaviourally modern when they could reliably transmit accumulated informational capital to the next generation, and transmit it with sufficient precision for innovations to be preserved and accumulated. In turn, the reliable accumulation of culture depends on the construction of learning environments, not just intrinsic cognitive machinery.
The scope of culture in chimpanzees, humans and ancestral apes [Abstract]
Proceedings of the royal society B, 2011
More studies have focused on aspects of chimpanzee behaviour and cognition relevant to the evolution of culture than on any other species except our own. Accordingly, analysis of the features shared by chimpanzees and humans is here used to infer the scope of cultural phenomena in our last common ancestor, at the same time clarifying the nature of the special characteristics that advanced further in the hominin line. To do this, culture is broken down into three major aspects: the large scale, population-level patterning of traditions; social learning mechanisms; and the behavioural and cognitive contents of culture. Each of these is further dissected into subcomponents. Shared features, as well as differences, are identified in as many as a dozen of these, offering a case study for the comparative analysis of culture across animal taxa and a deeper understanding of the roots of our own cultural capacities.
Refuting a Myth About Human Origins
Homo sapiens emerged once, not as modern-looking people first and as modern-behaving people later [PDF]
John J. Shea
American scientist, 2011
This regional phenomenon went global in the late 1980s after a conference at Cambridge University entitled “The Human Revolution.” This revo–lution was portrayed as a watershed event that set recent modern humans apart from their archaic predecessors and from other hominins, such as Homo neanderthalensis. The causes of this as–sumed transformation were hotly de–bated. Scientists such as Richard Klein attributed the changes to the FOXP2 polymorphism, the so-called language gene.
Complex Projectile Technology and Homo sapiens Dispersal into Western Eurasia [PDF]
Shea & Sisk
This paper proposes that complex projectile weaponry was a key strategic innovation driving Late Pleistocene human dispersal into western Eurasia after 50 Ka. It argues that complex projectile weapons of the kind used by ethnographic hunter-gatherers, such as the bow and arrow, and spearthrower and dart, enabled Homo sapiens to overcome obstacles that constrained previous human dispersal from Africa to temperate western Eurasia. In the East Mediterranean Levant, the only permanent land bridge between Africa and Eurasia, stone and bone projectile armatures like those used in the complex weapon systems of recent humans appear abruptly ca 45–35 Ka in early Upper Paleolithic contexts associated with Homo sapiens fossils. Such artifacts are absent from Middle Paleolithic contexts associated with Homo sapiens and Neandertals. Hypotheses concerning the indigenous vs. exogenous origins of complex projectile weaponry in the Levant are reviewed. Current evidence favors the hypothesis that complex projectile technology developed as an aid to ecological niche broadening strategies among African popu-lations between 50–100 Ka. It most likely spread to western Eurasia along with dispersing Homo sapiens popula-tions. Neandertals did not routinely deploy projectile weapons as subsistence aids. This puzzling gap in their otherwise impressive record for survival in some of the harshest environments ever occupied by primates may reflect energetic constraints and time-budgeting factors associated with complex technology.
Cultural innovation and demographic change [PDF]
Richerson et al.
Human biology, 2009
Demography plays a large role in cultural evolution through its effects on the effective rate of innovation. If we assume that useful inventions are rare, then small isolated societies will have low rates of invention. In small populations, complex technology will tend to be lost as a result of random loss or incomplete transmission (the Tasmanian effect). Large populations have more inventors and are more resistant to loss by chance.
Late Pleistocene Demography and the Appearance of Modern Human Behavior [PDF]
Powell et al.
The origins of modern human behavior are marked by increased symbolic and technological complexity in the archaeological record. In western Eurasia this transition, the Upper Paleolithic, occurred about 45,000 years ago, but many of its features appear transiently in southern Africa about 45,000 years earlier. We show that demography is a major determinant in the maintenance of cultural complexity and that variation in regional subpopulation density and/or migratory activity results in spatial structuring of cultural skill accumulation. Genetic estimates of regional population size over time show that densities in early Upper Paleolithic Europe were similar to those in sub-Saharan Africa when modern behavior first appeared. Demographic factors can thus explain geographic variation in the timing of the first appearance of modern behavior without invoking increased cognitive capacity.
Rethinking the human revolution new behavioural and biological perspectives on the origin and dispersal of modern humans [PDF]
Paul Mellars et al.
Owbow books, Oxford, 2007 (livre)
The revolution that wasn’t: a new interpretation of the origin of modern human behavior [PDF]
McBrearty & Brooks
Journal of human evolution, 2000
Proponents of the model known as the “human revolution” claim that modern human behaviors arose suddenly, and nearly simultaneously, throughout the Old World ca. 40–50 ka. This fundamental behavioral shift is purported to signal a cognitive advance, a possible reorganization of the brain, and the origin of language. Because the earliest modern human fossils, Homo sapiens sensu stricto, are found in Africa and the adjacent region of the Levant at >100 ka, the “human revolution” model creates a time lag between the appearance of anatomical modernity and perceived behavioral modernity, and creates the impression that the earliest modern Africans were behaviorally primitive. This view of events stems from a profound Eurocentric bias and a failure to appreciate the depth and breadth of the African archaeological record. In fact, many of the components of the “human revolution” claimed to appear at 40–50 ka are found in the African Middle Stone Age tens of thousands of years earlier. These features include blade and microlithic technology, bone tools, increased geographic range, specialized hunting, the use of aquatic resources, long distance trade, systematic processing and use of pigment, and art and decoration. These items do not occur suddenly together as predicted by the “human revolution” model, but at sites that are widely separated in space and time. This suggests a gradual assembling of the package of modern human behaviors in Africa, and its later export to other regions of the Old World. The African Middle and early Late Pleistocene hominid fossil record is fairly continuous and in it can be recognized a number of probably distinct species that provide plausible ancestors for H. sapiens. The appearance of Middle Stone Age technology and the first signs of modern behavior coincide with the appearance of fossils that have been attributed to H. helmei, suggesting the behavior of H. helmei is distinct from that of earlier hominid species and quite similar to that of modern people. If on anatomical and behavioral grounds H. helmei is sunk into H. sapiens, the origin of our species is linked with the appearance of Middle Stone Age technology at 250–300 ka.
The Social Brain Hypothesis [PDF]
Evolutionary anthropology, 1998
We can easily predict a value for group size in humans. Doing so, which is simply a matter of using the human neocortex volume to extrapolate a value for group size from the primate equation, produces a value in the order of 150. The real issue is whether
humans really do go around in groups of this size.