Early humans might use advanced tools and become social due to environmental changes

Human characteristics to adapt is a result of Neanderthal genes

At first, it was thought that only modern humans were innovative as well as artistic. Then, just a few weeks ago, it was found out that our ancestors, the Neanderthals, created cave paintings in Europe. Now, three new studies have revealed that the early humans of East Africa developed many advanced tools under the influence of environmental change almost 320, 000 years ago.

That means when our ancestors were evolving into Homo sapiens or modern humans, they started making advanced tools to cope up with the changing climate. Also, the study found out that the dramatic shifts in the East African climate resulted in the development of trading networks among modern humans or their close relatives.

The researchers excavated new type of Middle age stone tools and red pigment pieces from the Olorgesailie Basin of southern Kenya. They found out that almost 320,000 years the early modern humans or their relatives used small, pointed and sophisticated tools for their survival and the tool making technology advanced due to the environmental changes. They found out that the tools consisted of obsidian, a type of glasslike volcanic rock that can produce ultra-sharp cutting edges. And, the obsidians came from faraway places, indicating that there were long-distance contact and trading among hominid populations during the evolution of modern humans.

All the three studies were headed by Richard Potts, director of National Museum of Natural History’s human origins program. Potts and his colleagues reported that at around, 320,000 years old, the excavated middle-aged tools containing obsidian are the oldest of their kind and the environmental and ecological changes occurring at that time coincides with the oldest known fossil record of Homo sapiens. This suggests that that the technologically advanced tools were used just before or during the emergence of Homo sapiens.

As per the study, the climate-driven behavioral changed in members of the Homo genus might have led to the use of smaller and more advanced tools. Previous studies estimated that the use of such advanced tools occurred almost 280,000 to possible 300,000 years ago. But, the latest study predates the use of advanced tools by Homo sapiens and their precursors by almost 20,000 years to 30,000 years. Potts concluded that the back-and-forth shifts in dry and wet conditions happened around that time, that is, about 320,000 years ago, which regularly reshaped the Olorgesaile landscape and that timing also coincides with the evolution of H.sapiens. So, the new study found out an important connection between the advanced Middle Stone Age tools, the environmental changes, ecological changes and the emergence of Homo sapiens.

Besides, in a recent study, it was found that our so-called ancestors have always fascinated researchers and scientists and at the same time, given the much-needed information about human evolution and growth pattern. Recently, a 50,000-year-old Neanderthal skull was re-analyzed, and it was discovered that in addition to enduring multiple injuries and debilitations, the male skull was also profoundly deaf. But the shocking thing is that with all these disabilities, the male Neanderthal still managed to live well into his 40s, which is considered as a quite old age as per Palaeolithic standards.

But the new research indicated that this astonishing feat could have only been possible by the support of others. Actually, the remains of this old male Neanderthal was found at Shanidar Cave in Iraqi Kurdistan way back in 1957. At that time the researchers saw many physical injuries and disabilities present in the Neanderthal fossil, and when they analyzed the skull, they found out that the Neanderthal suffered a crushing blow to the head near his eye socket when he was young, likely causing some visual impairment. His right hand and forearm were missing. He might have walked with a serious gait and also suffered from a hyperostotic disease.

But recently, when the Neanderthal specimen dubbed as Shanidar 1 was analyzed again, scientists found out yet another shocking disability. They discovered that the bony growths found in the Neanderthal’s ear canals would have resulted in a serious hearing loss that means the Palaeolithic-era hunter-gatherer was profoundly deaf. Anthropologists Erik Trinkaus from Washington University in St. Louis and S√©bastien Villotte of the French National Centre for Scientific Research, carried out this updated analysis and found out this hearing disability in Shanidar 1. The authors informed that it would have been essentially impossible for Shanidar 1 to maintain a sufficiently clear canal for adequate sound transmission. Hence, he would have been effectively deaf in his right ear, and he likely had at least partial CHL(conductive hearing loss) in the left year.

The authors also added that this hearing disability is a serious sensory deprivation Pleistocene hunter-gatherer. But despite his deafness, the Neanderthal died between 40-50 years of age and by Palaeolithic standards, he was an old man when he died. So, scientists believe that Shanidar 1 managed to live long by taking help of others or by social support. Because his inability to hear would have resulted in less communication and coordination, and he would have been more vulnerable to ubiquitous carnivores. So, social support was the key to his long survival.

About the author

Rishabh Rajvanshi

Rishabh, with six years of experience in the newspaper industry, has co-founded The TeCake in 2013. Apart from writing and editing articles on Technology at The TeCake, he also contributes to other esteemed newspapers.

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