How can a stone teach you anything?

in #origins4 years ago

Humans are the ultimate throw away species.

We have been picking up discarded tools for millennia and there is even signs of recycling in the archaeological record.

Where good tool making material is scarce its not uncommon to find older tools that have been remade into new tools. Sometimes there may be hundreds of thousand, even millions of years between the time the first tool was discarded and then picked up and remade into something else.

These discarded tools can tell us a bit about those who made them.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is quite a huge difference in the level of skill, dexterity and brain power required to manufacture the tool on the right in comparison to the tool on the left.

The one on the left (Oldowan) is a pebble that has been crudely bashed on one side to produce a simple sharp edge.

The one on the right (Acheulian) has been carefully planned and worked to produce a flattened instrument with a fine cutting edge all round the perimeter of the stone.

img source

Its not surprising then that the cruder tools are found before the more intricate ones.

There must have been some fantastic advancements to enable the latter tools to be manufactured.

Up till now its simply been educated guesswork as to how this occurred and which homonin species is responsible for these, since there are a couple of overlaps.

Through lots of effort we modern humans have been able to reverse engineer how these tools were created, partially by trial and error and partly by observing and copying peoples that still manufacture stone age tools today.

But to figure out what is really going on brain imaging is being brought on. Participants are having their brain activity levels and areas monitored while they manufacture modern equivalents. This enables researchers to see exactly what areas of the brain were required to manufacture tools and what areas would have been stimulated by these repetitive processes.

Language was thought by previous studies to be key.

Each of the subjects who participated in this study attended multiple training sessions to learn how to make Oldowan and Acheulian tools before going in for the final test – making tools while hooked up to the fNIRS system.

We needed to control for language in the design of our experiment to test the idea that language and tool-making share a common circuit in the brain. So we divided the participants into two groups: One learned to make stone tools via video with language instructions; the other group learned via the same videos, but with the audio muted, so without language.

If language and tool-making truly share a co-evolutionary relationship, then even those participants who were placed in the nonverbal group should still use language areas of the brain while making a stone tool. This is the result we should expect if language processing and stone tool production require the same neural circuitry in the brain.

The results were insightful...

What we found was that only the participants who learned to make stone tools with language instruction used language processing areas of the brain. This probably means that they were recalling verbal instructions they’d heard during their training sessions. That explains why earlier studies that did not control for language instruction in their experiment design found that stone tool production activates language processing areas of the brain. Those language areas lit up not because of anything intrinsic to making stone tools, but because while participants worked on the tools they also were likely playing back in their minds the language-based instruction they’d received.

Our study showed that people could make stone tools without activating language-related brain circuits. That means, then, that we can’t confidently state at this point that stone tool manufacture played a major role in the evolution of language. When exactly language made its appearance is therefore still a mystery to be solved.


It just goes to show what can be learned from a stone and that the interrogation needs to be precise or we may wander off to the wrong conclusions.


It's a bit of a shame we no longer make many of our personal tools... I have a paleo hide scraper that I use for craft work as it fits my hand so perfectly! Yes I've used it to scrape hides and also to clean gourds.

One size does not fit all!!

Yup, the custom nature of stone tools is very apparent. some just fit perfectly in your hand others don't, some are made for lefties but most for right handed use.

To answer the question: I personally got the experience that it is all about how you use the stone. If you are a little child and you throw a big stone in the air and end up hurting yourself because of gravity, you learn your lesson for the rest of your life.. ;)

Nice personal illustration

Man is a recycler of what his predecessors have done, the only difference is that it used to be manual and simple but now uses modern technology and science. In essence what it wants to achieve looks the same in ancient times and now. Ancient humans used stone as a weapon but now humans use iron and even the hardest steel, whereas the desire of the maker is the same weapon. A good post and an inspiration and for us all

It is indeed an inspiration for all of us here on steemit.
I loved the way just a stone is put up into a beautiful article. We do not usually think of writing an article just based on a stone, do we? An excellent approach and a different one too.

"In other classes of animals, the individual advances from infancy to age or maturity; and he attains, in the compass of a single life, to all the perfection his nature can reach: but, in the human kind, the species has progress as well as the individual; they build on every subsequent foundation every laid." -Adam Ferguson, Essay on Civil Society.

When inwas 8 years old we went on a trip to see the remains and tools from the stone age era at a place called Kariandusi in Kenya. It was one of my most memorable trips of my childhood and really made me love history from a young age

Must have been great, finding these tools close to our house was what got me started.

Very fascinating and quite a clever study this one!

Wow, such an informative piece. Who would've thought of this that our part of brain for language is recycling and based on the instructions received while preparing for a task,the same part help us in this archeological response. @gavvet, this piece is really educative and am glad to learning it from you. Bless

That's why I don't feel smart at all... Even though I'm using 3 laguages...hahaha

People who have made those stones must have really put lot of energy and effort into it, without hard work this could'nt have been possible.

This stone tell the story of supmen and other dc heroes

Nice opals

Very interesting and well written article. These experiences are incredible. Thank you very much for a great day

Geat work my dear so I vote you

This is an amazing post my friend, we neglected the little things in life, but they actually hold much more than we think, sadly that's how we've made life to be here on earth.
Cheers and much love from me.

Fascinating article. I've always been really interested in stone tools and their manufacture and have tried (unsuccessfully to make some myself). Really interesting study.

Jup, not easy. especially if you don't have the right material

I think geology is a scientific field that its not value. In my opinion its one of the most interesting fields that you can learn. In the stones is hidden the secret of humanity but geology has a lot of field where you can stand out:
Oil Geology
Economic Geology
Structural Geology
Historical geology
Planetary Geology
Regional Geology

informative piece, i wonder what record our generation would leave behind....probably it would be dial up cord or cassette player

So much information in just one stone!

interesting post
thanks for sharing

I like very much this post. Thank you @gavvet. Resteemed :)

feeling inspired :) honestly speaking, everything on this globe can teach us something. you only need a lion's heart to accept your mistake and lean from it.

eg: a small ant teaches us to work harder and to be persistent :)

Amazing analysis. I always thought that progression of man (homo-sapien and his ancestors) developed their abilities progressively and language formed a key factor in their evolution to a species using advanced tools and weapons. Thanks for sharing. Was intriguing.

While I am here, may I make a request - When you have time, please do take a look at my blog where I tried my hand at writing - a chain of thoughts on solitude - inspired by my wildlife picture instead of just putting the picture. Thanks

Also - if you dont mind please participate in this contest for supporting minnows -

Very interesting post and it really does exclaim how so much history is written in the little things we do.

Thank you for this.


Worth of .

Interesting read! I think I could make a stone tool from reading this article.

It teaches you how to survive!

interesting article

What kind of tool can you make using Ebonics? LOL

So easy a caveman can do it. :D

That's what everybody thinks until they try... Its hard.

very interesting dear

There is an evolutionary curve in every field, and human evolution is both fascinating and puzzling.
thanks for sharing!

Brilliant article. It's amazing we can get this for free on Steemit. Thank you very much for sharing

Now the latest discovery is the strongest evidence yet that these early humans did have the ability to make and use tools rather than being primative creatures.

Hey @gavvet, nice share. I'm a new Steemian who just signed up. It would be great if you would have a quick look at my blog and click the follow button if my writing resonates with you. Much appreciated!

Thank you for sharing, nice post!

I've learnt so much from this article. It has given me so much insight. I love it

An interesting post about stone and its mysteries

that was the reason-"Early human history was written with stone tools."!

they still use stones in the the middle east...

naughty, naughty

Thanks for the share! I got told they went hand in hand, so it's interesting to know they actually don't!

I guess it has a lot to do with trial and error, just like these cute little fellows,and finetuning the process and learning it from others doing it:

Still wonder when exactly language did come into play though! :)

Yup, more research and a bit of luck before we uncover that one, unfortunately spoken words do not fossilize.

Love this post and I learned a great deal from your post. Thank You! Very fascinating.

Interesting the correlation between stone tool manufacture and language evolution ! Good post, @gavvet. :)

There was a teacher that would on the first test in the first grade say to the students when they ask him what to write abut, rock. The would all ask him what, why, how... he would say: I don't know, you tell me.

Interesting approach, did it work well?

well the student's mostly hated it so he stooped after few years. But i thin kit was a cool concept

As the article brings out, the complexity of the tool in the making is a factor. I am thinking that it would be easy to see some trees and figure out how to make a house of them. - even chimpanzees are capable of something of the sort. When it comes to sharpening a rock, it's more complicated perhaps, but still wouldn't require much verbal instruction, if any. If, on the other hand, we are talking about more advanced tool making, which might go as far as metallurgy, for example, then verbal instruction is absolutely necessary. Some things just can't be taught to apes. Some things are less intuitive than others. For example, what would make a hypothetical cave man figure out how to melt rock to get iron from it?
I appreciate the article, and agree with the conclusion; good food for thought.

Lead melts at campfire heat.

That's a fact and I agree. But how many lead rocks have you seen lying around, ready to be melted in a campfire? So many details are involved in the technology that can't be passed on without the means of verbal communication.

Metallurgy definitely followed verbal in the sequence of things

The experiments and studies with people who possess language probably are not so pure comparing with some language conception due to doing tools with hands and when body language is not enough

I like to think any sort of success or progress is built upon the previous success and progress of others -- tools or not.

This is such a fascinating study with the brain. It shows how the brain works with respect to how we think. I'm even more amazed by the results! You would think that language would have a definitive connection with stone tool manufacture but it just goes to show that the brain is more complex than we know :)

Well i didnt know that

Hello brother and friend @gavvet
Happy Day Hope you are fine and you are all family
I would like to say thank you for the help you give me, and I appreciate that much
We are the sons of one continent and also the sons of the human race, and we have chosen to thank you
As for the relation of the stone with the human mind, this exists actually and I am now very surprised how the pyramids of Giza were built in the time of BC much of the time without the presence of modern tools that are so far we try to a large extent to extinguish the culture of the past peoples
Thank you @gavvet

very nice ,
i posted a beautiful place , check my last post , tnx.

Nice articles. Two thumbs for u @gavvet. Upvoted on this. I will follow the latest posts from you. I am waiting your visit on my wall.

Very interesting information. Thank you for sharing.

this article was boring. make a better one.

thanks for your honest feelings, rocks and stones are not for everyone

A quick question. I thought that the weird dating of the old tools is affected by carbon reading method which is regarded to be very unreliable by some theories. Is it so? Please comment. Thx

carbon dating only works in relatively recent times, OSL is more reliable for older stuff of the tool nature.

The difference between radiocarbon dating and OSL is that the former is used to date organic materials, while the latter is used to date minerals. Events that can be dated using OSL are, for example, the mineral's last exposure to sunlight; Mungo Man, Australia's oldest human find, was dated in this manner. It is also used for dating the deposition of geological sediments after they have been transported by air (aeolian sediments) or rivers (fluvial sediments). In archaeology, OSL dating is applied to ceramics: The dated event is the time of their last heating to a high temperature (in excess of 400 °C).
Recent OSL dating of stone tools in Arabia pushed the "out-of-Africa" date hypothesis of human migration back 50,000 years and added a possible path of migration from the African continent to the Arabian peninsula instead of through Europe.[2] [3]
The most popular OSL method is called single-aliquot regeneration (SAR).

Hi gavvet, thanks for putting up this post. I really enjoyed learning about how these stones can tell us stories and help unravel bits of mystery. I hope you will be back soon with more on the subject! Good day to you!

Reminds me of a video I did as part of webseries called Earth Heart. Make sure you check out Casting Stones by Brooke Medicine Eagle.

Brave New Earth

I was born in '92 and spent my childhood outside. I climbed trees, build bows, dug holes in the ground with my bare hands. Simply said I loved nature. Now I see little children with smartphones and never seen the beauty of nature

Same here, what will it produce?

Things will become worse I think. We live in extreme times

Amazing post btw, even as I upvoted it went up $100. :)

nice bro..
i followed your steemit account because of your supportiveness in steemit community please help me raise my steem power thanks ..

Our brains are incredibly plastic and open to suggestion. For the most part of our existence we were communication without language. Most of our communication today is non-verbal. All other mammals learn by example from their parents. We are not any different.

Yup and nonverbal communication even transcend species. That is immensely powerful, observe an animal long enough and you can begin to predict some of its behavior and even "personality" just by non verbal clues.

My most favourite part of geography in high school :P

yup, geography was my favorite subject at high school

Very motivational

Agree with what you say

very interesting post :) thanks for sharing :)

I dig the anthropology @gavvet (pun intended)

Thank you! I was interested in reading your post, even though my English is a bit bad! This is one of the most interesting posts I've read)))

Keep making these posts. I do really enjoy them. I have a fascination with history, archaeology and anthropology...

I'm glad you like them

very interesting and well researched and written post. :))

you are welcome

Wow this is fascinating! I have a lot of stones scattered across my 86 acres in the countryside, and I love looking at them and guessing what amazing history could lie behind them. Great post.

Good post @gavvet, I love the stone ring and in my residence many types of agate.

Stones can do more than teach you anything! Throw it at someone and gain respect :)

thank you for good posting~

very deep and impressive post . i like it .

"Man is a tool making animal" - Benjamin Franklin

Stones are powerful! I have an hymalayan salt lamp in my bedroom (which looks very similar to the one on your picture) and it has helped with my depression! I felt more relaxed and was more able to sleep at night! I am obsessed with stones as I have many jelwery with different ones (moonstone is my personal fave!)

Thanks for sharing! :))