RE: Australopith Tools - Was What did AAT Eat

Matthew Hill (
Thu, 12 Jan 1995 18:33:33 GMT

Please excuse erratic editing- or no editing at all of the
text from which this takes off. I am only slowly mastering a fundamentally
perverse mail system.

The assignment of the tools from the lower bed of Olduvai to
one rather than another of the australopith grade fossils (a
category in which so-called Homo habilis seems to belong) is
clearly wishful thinking, embodying the fairly standard
paleoanthropological assumption that any fossil with a slightly more
'modern-looking' skull gets all the credit.

Since the oldest tools known, from the Hadar, predate any currently known
habilid it is not unreasonable to assume that stone tool-making began with
a predecessor of the habilids, therefore according to most evolutionary
schemata to a predecessor of other australopiths as well. Unless, stone
tool-making was invented and lost more than once, which I can well
believe, there is no particular reason to exclude any later australopith
from the category of possible stone tool user.

After all, their post-cranial characteristics (if again we do not
use the ploy of saying that any modern-looking post-cranial bones found
in isolation MUST belong with modern-looking skulls and vice-versa) do not
seem to have been greatly different. They shared the same pre-adaptations
for tool-use, and tool-using would have been about as adaptive for

Incidentally, McGrew gave a paper last spring which to me pretty well
demonstrated that using tools for nut-cracking (the only
chimp use of stone tools?) is a chimp invention which postdates the
development of the Dahomey Gap, the stretch of savannah which reachs
to the coast separating the chimp populations of West Africa from those
of Central Africa. Only West African chimps use tools to crack nuts.
There is significantly more to his argument than that, so please don't
start a critical thread based on ignorance folks. Wait for him to
publish his conclusions when he finishes the research he reported in a
preliminary paper.