Discovering hafted spear points half a million years old is like finding iPods at a Roman archaeological site, a paleoanthropologist said.
Half a million years ago, Neanderthals had not evolved yet, according to evolutionary anthropology. There was only Heidelberg Man and “the last common ancestor of Neandertals and modern humans,” PhysOrg said. National Geographic quoted John Shea saying this is “like finding an iPod in a Roman Empire site. It’s that level of weirdness.”
There is some doubt about the dating, but the news articles are quoting the paper in Science (Nov 16) with some confidence, where Wilkins et al., claimed, “Multiple lines of evidence indicate that ~500,000-year-old stone points from the archaeological site” in South Africa they excavated “functioned as spear tips.”
If true, this nearly doubles the age for this kind of technology. National Geographic wrote, “If the dating is correct, it suggests our evolutionary forebears mastered the art of the stone-tipped spear half a million years ago—some 250,000 years earlier than previously thought.”
Putting a rock tip on a spear involves multiple mental and physical skills. “To fasten a handle to a blade—a technique called hafting—a prehistoric hunter likely would have had to procure a stone blade, a wooden shaft, twine woven from plants or animal sinew, and glue made from tree resin. The glue itself may have required a mastery of fire, to liquefy the resin, said Shea, of New York’s Stony Brook University.”
The hafting process requires forethought. “You have to plan days in advance before actually being able to use your weapons to hunt,” [Jayne Wilkins, lead author] said. And you’d want to teach your comrades to do the same, presumably by talking.
So this find hints at language, too, as well as manual dexterity, mastery of fire, forethought and a large brain. Shea thinks there is no question the skill involved speech. “We have language, and Neanderthals likely had language … so it stands to reason that our last common ancestor had linguistic abilities too,” he said. But that begs the question of when language emerged from ancestors lacking it.
“At least one thing seems sure: Strapping a blade to a stick helped make us who we are today, according to Arizona State University anthropologist Curtis Marean.” Some evolutionists propose that access to meat led to the expansion of the human brain (examples on Live Science #1, #2). But why did that work for humans, and not lions and other carnivores? What difference does it make if meat is cooked or not? Does your dog get smarter by eating cooked meat scraps from the table? Even if it did, how could it pass on that trait by Darwinian and not Lamarckian processes?
At Live Science, Marean said, “These people were like you and I.” But that comment was for an earlier find putting similar technology at 90,000 years ago, reported Nov 7. “Every time we excavate a new site in coastal South Africa with advanced field techniques, we discover new and surprising results that push back in time the evidence for uniquely human behaviors,” Marean said. “Now evidence has been pushed back to half a million years.”
Prior to the spear-points story, Live Science had published an article highlighting evidence from stone tools that suggests that humans sailed to Mediterranean islands far earlier than expected – 170,000 years ago or more, not just 9,000 years. This would suggest that Neanderthals or other pre-modern humans were seafaring people, capable of constructing boats as well as making tools. The surprise from South Africa makes one wonder if it’s only a matter of time before scientists find sailing evidence even farther back in time.
The news from the South African cave adds to the evidence that humans have always been humans, regardless of the artificial categories evolutionary anthropologists pigeonhole them in. Only their collective technology has improved, not their bodies and brains.
The evolutionary story of early man is unraveling. It is no longer plausible to suppose that dumb brutes hundreds of thousands of years ago were grunting their way up to modernity. Who can believe that these masterful hunters were too stupid to ride a horse and plant a farm? With the fall of evolution’s colossal tale the evolutionary dating methods collapse, too. Ditch the myth now so you won’t look so stupid later when a future, more enlightened consensus calls a halt to the storytelling. There were no iPods in Rome, and there was no half million years of human evolution.