November 16, 2012 | David F. Coppedge

Find Is Like iPods in Ancient Rome

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.

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  • John_Michael says:

    About a month ago, Bill Nye inferred that
    individuals who don’t “believe” in evolution,
    do not take the time to keep up with the literature
    and news being reported about the subject.

    To the contrary (Mr. Bill), if you’re someone who has doubts
    about presently accepted ideas of evolutionary thought,
    there’s a good chance that you’ll find articles like this one,
    to be very interesting.

    Over at Evolution News & Views there’s a recent
    posting that I also found to be interesting:
    How Falsifications of Darwinism Get Ignored.

    Thanks again CEH, you’re the best !!

  • rockyway says:

    “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.

    – Has anyone compiled a list of the things that supposedly made us human? (e.g. fire, cooking, hunting, games, sports, etc.) There’s been many people willing to speculate as to what this magical something was.

    Under Humanism no credit can go to God, and so the student is told that man gave birth to himself. He invented himself, transforming himself from a mute, mindless furry thing into a human being, all by the power of his will and imagination. He even invented speech and language. He is the god who gave birth to himself. The doctrine of creation is hated because it ruins this story of man’s own self-deification.

  • John_Michael says:

    My personal favorite, concerning hominid evolutionary accelerators,
    is the ever-present, man eating predatory big cat.
    The man eating predator allows us to understand so much
    about what it is that makes us human.
    Always lurking just behind the nearest bush or shrubs.
    It just might be evolution’s greatest invention?

    Posted here at

    Why Are Kids Hyper? Blame Evolution
    September 28, 2006

    also search for ..

    Evolution Is Impossible to Falsify
    October 18, 2011

  • AnthonyMills says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the creationist account has agriculture going back right to the beginning. Cain is a farmer, while Abel is a shepherd. In fact, even as God is casting Adam out of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:17-19, it sounds a lot like Adam does at least some farming; “through painful toil will you eat food from [the soil] all the days of your life” does not sound like hunter-gathering.

    This seems to substantially conflict with the evidence of past civilizations, which show farming and agriculture invented back in about 7,000 BC in multiple spots around the world (read “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond for a good synopsis), with a very long history of hunter-gathering before then.

    • Editor says:

      Anthony, you’re committing the either-or fallacy with a red herring. Before attacking the Biblical account (don’t forget the Flood and Babel), you need to deal with the evidence discussed in this article. It wasn’t creationists who called these hafted spear points “like finding iPods in ancient Rome” — it was evolutionists. How do you deal with this evidence that (according to evolutionary assumptions) pushes back the date of modern human mental capabilities like foresight and planning back to 500,000 years? It wasn’t that long ago that they were saying human ancestors were dumb brutes till modern humans emerged about 40,000 years ago. Stick to the subject at hand. If you come to agree that the evolutionary story is implausible and contradicted by the evidence, then we can talk about alternatives. By the way, even some of Jared Diamond’s colleagues do not consider him a reliable source; see our 5/17/2009 entry, “Can Humans Scientifically Analyze One Another?” and a foolish logical fallacy Diamond committed (see Baloney Detector and the May 7, 2010 entry, “Can Darwin Be Rescued from a New Eye Discovery?”).

  • AnthonyMills says:

    Yes, it pushes back ideas like foresight and planning, but just because you have foresight and planning and spear points doesn’t mean you have modern mental capabilities. We knew these existed 250,000 years ago, and now we have evidence they existed 500,000 years ago … honestly this doesn’t really seem to change the general narrative much, only to modify some of the dates. It certainly doesn’t invalidate the basic premise: humans were hunter-gatherers long before they were farmers.

    As for Jared Diamond, he’s accused of spicing up the details in a story about Papua New Guinea tribesmen by the people involved, and accused by you of daring to call the human eye badly designed. Anyone who’s read Peace Child or Lords of the Earth (which I have, many times) will accept the general idea of “eye for an eye” vengeance in PNG tribes, regardless of the specific facts of that specific case. And as for the eye quote, well, you’re going to call him into question for *that*? He’s hardly the first person to have such an opinion, and your argument against it boils down to “some features about it seem to mitigate the bad design, so you can’t call it bad design.”

    In any event, both of those are red herrings. Has anyone called into serious question the general chronology in Guns, Germs, and Steel? Humans originated in Africa, spread into Europe and Asia, and spread into North America and Australia, hunter-gathering all the way. Later, agriculture was developed independently in North America and the Fertile Crescent, among other places, around 7,000 years ago.

    I’m curious why you think I’m committing either an either-or fallacy or a red herring. You are saying that this latest evidence, evidence that hunter-gathering started earlier than we previously thought, means the Genesis account is more likely. I am disagreeing, saying that the Genesis account specifically records no period of hunter-gathering whatsoever, and thus this evidence makes the Genesis account even less likely.

    • Editor says:

      Anthony, please don’t fight straw men. Read the articles carefully; read my replies to your comments carefully. You’re attacking your imagination, not the article or commentary. If you wish to attack your imagination, fine; just don’t do it here.
      Jared Diamond said creationists must conclude God is a squid, OK? Not only deeply offensive to a lot of people, but a terrible case of non-sequitur.
      You misrepresented our reporting about eye design and did so using a bandwagon argument, but that’s off topic. I’m glad you recognized your own red herrings. Next time keep them out of the comments.
      If you want to write a blog or book review about Diamond’s book, which appears to be your authority, be our guest. This is not the place. Stick to what was reported in the entry. Asking us to criticize Diamond’s book is shifting the burden of proof.
      You prevaricated by claiming we said this finding makes Genesis more likely. You brought up Genesis–the entry did not even mention the Bible. That’s the red herring and the either-or fallacy.
      Circular reasoning: that a hunter-gatherer stage must precede a civilized stage (an evolutionary assumption). There are hunter-gatherers today. Again, that’s off topic. Many of your other statements amount to unargued assertions about what “we know.”
      I’m trying to help you make more reasoned comments so that our readers can enjoy a good discussion, even if controversial. Unfortunately, your Baloney Detector score was too high. Your best chance to stay in the discussion is to stick to what was reported and avoid the temptation to wander off into side topics. Maybe you should just read for awhile and remain silent.


      Note to readers 11/20/12: Anthony failed to take the hint, and wrote back with another 900-word essay. The comments page is not a place for essays; you can open your own blog for that. The rules of talk radio apply to comments here: your role is not to monopolize the conversation, but to contribute to it. Your role is not to tell people to switch to other radio stations, but to pay attention and deal with the topic at hand. You can disagree, but stay on topic. Make your point succinctly as logically and convincingly as you can, then get out of the way for others. Don’t expect to get your comment published if you grab the microphone and stand on your own soapbox, or if you engage in the distracting tactic of raising extraneous issues or asserting unargued conclusions. We also lack the time to get into extended conversations that go back and forth with little hope of ever getting resolved. Keep it short. Less is more.

  • Donald Holliday says:

    Anthony merely proved the point of atheism being a truly religious worldview. Why else would he find a deep spiritual craving, desire and need to proselytize for the god he’s willing accepted. Much of his postings were mere faith-based statements and when called on the carpet for making such religious assertions/assumptions, proceeds to Dogmatically defend these.

    Watched a documentary many years back of a man who was obsessed with anthropology and early man, so much so that he developed the amazing skill at replicating large Clovis Spear Points. He claimed he had to be careful because some had been mistaken for the real thing. So what happened to all that amazing dating ? Wonder how many dig sites have been salted for Darwin ?

  • atheos27 says:

    Why is the beginning of human forethought such a big deal? Squirrels store nuts for times of winter scarcity and dogs bury bones for later gnawing. Is this not an example of a degree of forethought? Yes, these actions maybe purely “instinctual”, but it is clearly a logical progression from there to a more conscious type of forethought displayed by our cave-dwelling ancestors. I would not be surprised if even older examples are one day discovered in East Africa somewhere. None of this does anything to poke holes in evolutionary theory, it just goes to show us that we don’t know everything about this subject as of yet and there is a great need to continue this research.

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