Recent Archaeological Discovery in South Africa Pushes Human History Back in Time

At a site on the southern coast of South Africa a trove of sophisticated stone tools were discovered, and are believed to have been made some 50,000 years before the technology to create them emerged in Europe and other regions of Africa. This discovery, according to a report in the journal Nature, suggests that the first modern humans evolved where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic, which is the Cape Agulhas in the southern part of Africa.

The discovery made, small blades called microliths, were unearthed at Pinnacle Point, about 500 kilometers west of Cape Town, and are dated back 71,000 years. The thin, 3-centimeter-long blades were carefully crafted so they could be glued into slots at the tip of arrows or spears. Such projectile weapons gave these early humans a significant advantage when facing a prey animal – or a competing human.

According to Arizona State University Professor Curtis Marean, Director of the Pinnacle Point excavation, the lethal technology “probably laid the foundation for the expansion out of Africa of modern humans and the extinction [of] our sister species, such as Neanderthals,” who did not have such projectile weapons.

The discovery also suggests that the method was actually passed on through generations and survived for more than 10,000 years. This causes Professor Marean to believe that field work in Africa will continue to push back in time the evidence for uniquely human behaviours.

A University of Toronto-led team of anthropologists working at another site in South Africa has done just that, finding new evidence that early human hunters were attaching stone points to the tips of their spears half a million years ago — 200,000 years earlier than previously thought.

The researchers examined 500,000-year-old stone points from an excavation at Kathu Pan 1, in Northern Cape province, and determined that they had been used as spear tips.

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