Protein Residue Found on Hominin Stone Tools

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Posted on August 17, 2016 in Amazing Facts, Dating Methods, Early Man, Fossils, Geology, Mind and Brain, Philosophy of Science

Would you expect pieces of meat to survive on flakes of rock in the desert for 250,000 years?

Modern humans are typically dated from 200,000 years ago to the present, according to the evolutionary timeline. Stone tools found in Jordan from “human-like species” older than moderns still have identifiable protein remains of the animals the hunters slaughtered with the tools, according to a press release from the University of Victoria:

How smart were human-like species of the Stone Age? New research published in the Journal of Archaeological Science by a team led by paleoanthropologist April Nowell of the University of Victoria reveals surprisingly sophisticated adaptations by early humans living 250,000 years ago in a former oasis near Azraq, Jordan.

The research team from UVic and partner universities in the US and Jordan (see backgrounder for list of co-authors) has found the oldest evidence of protein residue—the residual remains of butchered animals including horse, rhinoceros, wild cattle and duck—on stone tools. The discovery draws startling conclusions about how these early humans subsisted in a very demanding habitat, thousands of years before Homo sapiens first evolved in Africa.

This announcement makes “startling” claims that should question the validity of the dates. What were “surprisingly sophisticated” early humans doing in Jordan, if the ancestors of modern humans were waiting to evolve in Africa? More importantly, how could protein residues remain in a “demanding habitat” for 250,000 years? Wouldn’t all traces of meat have been eliminated completely by bacteria and natural decay? Photos in the press release show workers digging near to the surface.

The summary of the paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science says that the finding “Expands [the] growing body of data on long-term survivability of biological materials.” The press release indicates how many tools were tested:

The team excavated 10,000 stone tools over three years from what is now a desert in the northwest of Jordan, but was once a wetland that became increasingly arid habitat 250,000 years ago. The team closely examined 7,000 of these tools, including scrapers, flakes, projectile points and hand axes (commonly known as the “Swiss army knife” of the Paleolithic period), with 44 subsequently selected as candidates for testing. Of this sample, 17 tools tested positive for protein residue, i.e. blood and other animal products.

It doesn’t mean that thousands of the other tools lacked residues. It only means that of the 44 they decided to test with immunoelectrophoresis, 17 of them (38%) still had animal proteins on them. If the tools were left in a wetland that dried out (“one of the last humid refugia in NE Jordan”), it’s hard to believe any traces of meat would remain at all. But the researchers seem more impressed by the intelligence of the hunters.

Based on lithic, faunal, paleoenvironmental and protein residue data, we conclude that Late Pleistocene hominins were able to subsist in extreme arid environments through a reliance on surprisingly human-like adaptations including a broadened subsistence base, modified tool kit and strategies for predator avoidance and carcass protection.

The types of planning and thinking evident on the tools “significantly diverges from what we might expect from this extinct species,” the article says. So if they are surprised by unexpected wisdom of the ancients, why should neutral observers believe what they say about the age of the tools? Why should the hunters be called “hominins” instead of talented people?

It’s looking like the hunters were wiser than their gullible descendants who cannot, for the life of them, question the long ages taught to them by the Darwinian storytellers.


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