Early African Bone Tools Found: Evidence Challenges Assumed

Ruby Rohrlich (rohrlich@GWIS2.CIRC.GWU.EDU)
Sat, 29 Apr 1995 15:43:42 -0400

On April 28 the Washington Post carried on its front page the above
headline, with the following subtitle: Evidence Challenges Assumed
Advances in Europe, Asia. The article was written by Boyce Rensberger,
and reads as follows: "Africans who lived about 90,000 years ago carved
animal bones into barbed spear points and used these relatively
sophisticaated weapons to catch fish, a team of anthropologists has
concluded. If they are right, their discovery indicates that technology
reached this level of advancement in Africa about 75,000 years before it
appeared in Europe or Asia. The findings, reported in today's issue of
the journal Science, fit well with other evidence that anatomically
modern human beings (people physically like those living today and
presumably of comparable mental ability) evolved first in Africa, perhaps
about l25,000 years ago, and then reached Eurasia much later, bringing
their superior tool-making abilities with them. Previous research had
suggested that these earliest examples of modern humans had developed
only a simpler, cruder stone tool technology until they reached Europe
around 40,000 years ago. At that point, anthropologists have long held,
human evolution and technologymade a major leap forward. Stone and bone
tools became more sophisticated and varied. Artwork carved on bones and
painted in caved exploded in creativity.
" In European archaeological sites of that time, scientists had found
what until now were the oldest known carved bonepoints. Such technical
improvements as barbs were notknown to have appeared until around l4,000
years ago. The 90,000-year-old African points look verymuch like the
younger European ones.
"The new find 'shows that humans in Africa had invented
sophisticated technologies long before their Eropean counterparts, who
have long been credited with initiating modern culture,' said Alison
S.Brooks, an anthropologist at George Washington University. Brooks made
the discoveriesin a collaboration withher husband John E. Yellen,
director of the National Science Foundation's archaeology program. The
two led a research group that included more than a dozen collaborators.
"The bone points were foundin a site called Katenda, in the
Semliki Valley of eastern Zaire near the Uganda border. 'We were pretty
blown away bythis,' Brooks said. 'We didn't expect it at all."
"The bone points measure up to about five inches long. The ends
have beensharpened by running aagainst an abrasive surface, and in some
cases one end has grooved rings, apparently created to help hold the
bone lashed to a wooden shaft. The edges have been carved,presumably
with stone tools, to create rows of barbs that would lock in the flesh of
a speared animal......."
This is certainly the answer to The Bell Curve, is the comment of
the sender of this news item, Ruby Rohrlich.