Thursday, September 9, 2021

400,000-Year Tool Production Site Near Rome


A lissoir found at the site. (Villa et al., 2021, PLOS One)

The discovery of 98 elephant-bone tools at a site dating back 400,000 years is causing great excitement among paleoanthropologists. The bones are evidence of butchering by humans and the now-extinct animal was the straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus). 

The bones were collected from Castel di Guido, located close modern-day Rome. The site indicates that archaic humans did not waste the resources at their disposal. They had a tool-production line using methods not known this far back in time. They used percussion flaking, a technique in which bits of bone are chipped off using a separate implement to make specific tools.

"We see other sites with bone tools at this time," says archaeologist Paola Villa (University of Colorado Boulder). "But there isn't this variety of well-defined shapes."

"At Castel di Guido, humans were breaking the long bones of the elephants in a standardized manner and producing standardized blanks to make bone tools."

Villa adds, "This kind of aptitude didn't become common until much later."

One of the most interesting tools discovered is a lissoir: a bone that's long and smooth at one end, and would have been used to treat leather. These kinds of tools didn't become common until about 300,000 years ago.

Read more here.

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