ARCL 318 - Final Paper
“Olduvai Gorge – The Origin of Craftsmanship”
Olduvai Gorge – The Origin of Craftsmanship
By the early 1960s it was already clear that the development of modern Homo Sapiens came about as an evolution of a series of older, more primitive species of hominids. One of them, found in 1959 by Leakey in the Bed I of the then newly discovered Olduvai Gorge site of Tanzania, belonged to Australopithecus (it was found later that this specimen was actually a Homo Erectus), one of the more distant relatives of the modern man. This distant relative, however, had the ability to produce stone tools, which was unprecedented discovery at the time, since all previous finds indicated only the ability to utilize bone. The entire industry of stone making found at the site was named the Oldowan complex, and is considered being the oldest known human stone producing cultural complex (Tattersall, 1995; Leaky, 1971)
The use of stone as the preferred tool making material of early hominids, Shott (2015) argues, ties in with two factors. The first factor is the abundance of stone in nature, making it a viable choice. It does not require any industrial or other processes to find and extract, a simple walk to the nearest river or a hill is sufficient. The second factor is its strength and resilience. When compared to wood, which would be the second most obvious and easily obtained material, stone is much harder and better suited for skinning, puncturing and hitting, which were the most common activities of the early hominids (Shott, 2015).
The analysis of technologies and materials used by the early hominids can highlight the many aspects of their daily lives, ranging from their dietary habits, social structure, to their ability to create and abstract. Additionally, behaviorists have found novel ways of measuring the impact of advanced tool production of primates, mainly through controlled tests performed on modern primates in captivity. This allows paleoanthropologists to peek into the evolution of hominids and more importantly the development of their ability to use stone tools. This involves not only the ability to use them, but also rather the ability to both use and manufacture such tools (Shick et al., 1997).
This paper will analyze the spatial and temporal distribution of stone tool assemblages from the Olduvai Gorge site. The primary focus of the paper is to determine the progression of tool making techniques over time and the changes that had to occur in the physiology and behavior of the early hominids to foster this kind of radical change. It will be argued that the Olduvai Gorge site presents a key element in this discussion as it shows a fairly accurate range of tool development through its four beds.
The First stone tools and the problem surrounding the Oldowan complex
The majority of estimates suggest that the first appearance of stone tools made by humans dates to 2.5mya. However, the significant differences in the morphological and...