…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger
The heading Stone-tipped spears are a half million years old in New Scientist of 24 November, 2012 attracted my attention:
“… The oldest evidence yet of stone-tipped spears suggests it was neither our species nor Neanderthals who pioneered such weapons, but our shared ancestor, Homo heidelbergensis. We knew that H. heidelbergensis fashioned wooden spears, says Jayne Wilkins at the University of Toronto, Canada, but evidence for stone-tipped weapons was lacking. Stone points from spears had been found only at sites associated with Neanderthals or archaic members of our species, and not more than 300,000 year old. That gives huge significance to the discovery by Wilkins’s team of a hoard of stone points between 4 and 9 centimetres long. Unearthed in 500,000-year-old deposits at Kathu Pan in South Africa, they are right shape and size for use on spears. Some have fractured tips, suggesting they were used as weapons (Science, doi.org/jsq) Crucially, the points show signs of having been resharpened to maintain their symmetry. That is characteristic of spear tips and not of handheld cutting tools…
The find does more than just extend the prehistory of stone-tipped spears – it puts those first spears firmly in the hands of H. heidelbergensis, Wilkins says. …”The spears are evidence for the deep accumulation of hunting behaviours in our lineage. … Use of the spears may have taken off as H. heidelbergensis acquired a bigger brain.”
It is good to see a female archaeologist to pay proper homage to mankind’s hunting heritage. Many archaeologists, and not only the female ones, advance their careers in fields of study dominated by the vicious political correctness by minimising the male/hunter’s contribution to the human evolution and by artificially enhancing that of the female/gatherer’s.
As far as I know, the scientists still estimate the size of brain by the size of a brain cavity, which is measured by the volume of the sand (or beer?) which can be poured in. The bigger brain cavity is supposed to reflect a bigger brain and thus more brain power (intelligence), though Neanderthals’ cavity was bigger than ours who are pleased to call ourselves Homo sapiens. (What a chutzpah!) Also, a koala’s brain is a size of a walnut, a fact known now only to hunters, but the cavity would easily accommodate a cricket ball. The koala is not the brightest marsupial in the mulga, busily working on its extinction by unprotected sexual intercourse. Chlamydia, of a slightly different version than a human one, is rampant amongst them.
Naturally, Homo sapiens is smarter and thus has no such problems –
Cases of ‘untreatable gonorrhoea’ have soared 25 per cent in a year, as experts warn the disease is becoming more resistant to treatment. More than 20,000 new cases of the sexually-transmitted infection were diagnosed in 2011. … Health experts are hoping the first Gonorrhoea Resistance Action Plan will increase awareness of the disease, which is the second most common bacterial STI in England. The plan, established by the Health Protection Agency, will monitor the global problem of increasing resistance over the last 10 years.
It comes after the 2011 data revealed up to a third of reported cases were repeat gonorrhoea infections. Over a third of cases were in men who have sex with men, up from around a quarter in 2010. The spike has led to the launch of a new campaign to tackle the growing threat in England and Wales in a bid to reverse the trend.
I do not know how I got from Homo heidelbergensis via Phascolarctos cinereus to Homo britannicus. Sorry.
Obviously, when you are on a good thing, stick to it, i.e. to sticks and stones. First used about 500 000 years ago, Australian Aborigines were using them in 1870 and later. When the Overland Telegraph Line between Port Augusta, South Australia and Darwin, Northern Territory* was being constructed, amongst many problems the workers were facing was a breakage and theft of ceramic insulators by Aborigines. At first it was thought that it is a normal vandalism, but later it was discovered (painfully) that Aborigines used the broken porcelain to replace the stone spear points. The problem was alleviated to some extent by placing the already broken insulators at the base of the telegraph poles to save them the effort, but the telegraph line was never really safe. Today the line no longer exists, so the repeater stations’ solar panels are targeted.
I suspect that the spear points found at Kathu Pan may be even older than 500 000 years. Unless there were significant geological changes the same site would be utilised by proto-humans, on and off, with gaps measured in tens of thousand years. Stone points are useful, not easily made (and not just any stone will do), but easily transported, durable (in proper hands) and thus valuable. They do not became obsolete simply because some pimple-faced marketing manager decided that this century they should be of a different colour. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that “Kathu Pan” people used stones worked upon by their ancestors. The ability to utilise somebody’s else’s work, and in a due course improve it, is what makes us human.
It is difficult to date stones out of their geological strata. Some of them, and the tools made out of them in particular, gather no moss.
*/ The whole line (3200 km) was completed in two and a half years. Today just an environmental impact study would take longer than that.