Development Of Tools Throughout Time Essay, Research Paper
Our world today has many different kinds of tools. I realized this when I was walking through The Home Depot a few weeks ago. On one isle are nails, and screws, the next isle there are power drills to go along with power saws and power sanders. Now imagine the world with no tools, no nails or screws. It would be pretty difficult to do most anything. We would have no houses to live in, no cars to travel to work in, and we would have no place of employment in which to work. Without tools our world would be nothing. This is the world our ancestors faced, and they had nothing but rocks and sticks. Homo Habilis had the challenge of being the first hominid with a larger brain, which allowed him to have the ability to do more things. With early hominids lacking size and strength to kill large animals they used certain objects to kill and devour these animals. This ultimately led to the development of tools.
By 2.5 million years ago, a new human evolutionary trend had begun. The change to a upright bipedal posture, and existing flexibility at the shoulder, arms, and hands allowed hominids to carry and manipulate objects much more readily. Early hominids began to manipulate the physical world, inventing solutions to the problems of human existence. Instead of foraging, as do most primates, on a more or less individualistic basis for food sources, early hominids invented stone tools with which they could slay larger animals. This began a switch from scavenging to hunting as the main means by which meat was acquired.
The earliest known tools yet discovered were found by Louis and Mary
Leakey at Olduvai Gorge dating back to about two million years ago. They originally thought that these tools were made by the Australopithecus, but later determined that they were made by the Homo Habilis . The first tools found were classified as lower paleolithic tools. These tools belong to the Oldowan tool tradition. These tools which were opportunist in nature were characterized by an all-purpose generalized chopping tool. These were produced by removing a few flakes from a stone either by using another stone as a hammer or by striking a pebble against a large rock. Manufacturing tools this way is called the percussion method. Many of these tools were made out of quartz or lava; which were not the most common stones but were the easiest to chip.
For a long time, paleontologists believed that the shaped core in itself represented the final product – the tool – and that the flakes were to be regarded as waste or leftovers from the manufacturing procedure. Close examination has shown, however, that much of the variation among chopping tools was due to the deliberate production of flakes which then could be used as knives, scrapers, or other tools. “Tool makers apparently were concerned mostly with producing sharp flakes without any regard to shape(Leaky 55).” These tools could be used to make clothes, woodwork, gather products, and process meat. Crude as they were, Oldowan choppers and flakes mark an important technological advance for early hominids; previously they depended on found objects that required little or no modifications (Wallbank 3). The advent of these Oldowan blades made possible the addition of meat to their diet on a more frequent basis.
The next grouping of early hominids is Homo Erectus, discovered in Java in
1891. Associated with the remains of Homo Erectus are tools of the Acheulean tradition. The Acheulean period lasted from 1.5 million until between 200,000 and 150,000 years ago. The most prominent characteristic of this period are hand axes: pear shaped tools pointed at one end with a sharp cutting edge all around. “The subtriangular hand ax probably had a wide range of use such as cutting, digging, and scraping, and was often shaped into a neat but very efficient tool(Burenholt 75).” These hand axes weighed as much as 20 pounds a piece. The hand ax was probably one of only about a dozen tool forms in the Acheulean kit and was produced according to some form of mental template. Most of the other items in the assemblage were Oldowan in many ways. These other tools only displayed a minimal imposition of form. Besides hand axes, they also used antler spear throwers , for spear hunting, adorned with life like animal carvings. Other tools were used as cleavers to cut meat. During this period they discovered Flint which was used in the production of smaller lighter tools, whereas the oldowan tool makers used heavier coarse-grained stones. The greatest tool of this period however, was the invention of fire. Originally, fire was used for protection from predators. Later it was used to provide warmth, and to cook foods. Once Homo Erectus discovered how to cook foods many problems were alleviated. Poisons in foods were burned away, and smaller tooth size came about since foods were now softer. Fire gave people more control over their environment. Fire also provided light in caves, or at night time which before this was unavailable. “Research shows that early Homo erectus controlled and used fire in eastern Africa, adding about a
million years to the time when human ancestors faced fire – not as an object of terror – but as a source of comfort and protection. Extensive and varied analyses show that more than six red patches discovered at the famous hominid site of Koobi Fora on the shore of Kenya’s Lake Turkana are, in fact, fireplaces used by hominid(Rowlett).” Another signifigant tool in this period was bamboo. Bamboo had several important uses such as knives, spears, projectile points, and the building of villages.
The next category of development for archaic humans is Homo Sapiens. This category however, is divided into three parts: the lower, middle, and upper paleolithic periods. The style of tool making in the lower paleolithic period is called the Levalloisian Technique, which came about approximately 200,000
years ago. In this tool making technique, the core was shaped by removal of small
waste flakes over its surface. Following which, a striking platform was set up for a crosswise blow at one end of the core of stone. This method produced a longer edge with the same amount of flint than the previous ones. These edges were also sharper and could be produced in less time. “Also around 200,000 years ago in Africa, another technological breakthrough took place. This was the invention of hafting – the affixing of small stone bifaces and flakes in handles of wood – to make improved spears and knives(Haviland 228).”
The Middle Paleolithic, which lasted from about 166,000 years ago till about 30,000 years ago is characterized by the Neanderthal people. The tools of
this period were of the Mousterian Tradition, named after the Neanderthal site of Le Moustier, France. These Mousterian tools are lighter and smaller than those of the Levalloisian Tradition. “The Levalloisian tool makers obtained only two or three flakes from one core, the Mousterian tool makers obtained many more smaller flakes, which were then skillfully retouched and sharpened for special purposes(Haviland 232).” Because Mousterian tools were conceived as refinements on a few distinct core shapes, the whole process of making tools had standardized into explicit stages (basic core stone, rough blank, refined final tool), with variations in tools created by variations in the procedures at each stage. A consistent manufacturing goal was to increase as much as possible the cutting area on each blade. Though this made the tool making process more labor intensive, it also meant the edges of the tools could be reshaped or sharpened as used so that tools lasted longer. This tool kit contained many more tools than any of the previous traditions, they even experimented with bitumen as a glue. With these improvements in tool making the Neanderthals were able to move north and better cope with the colder climate. The complexity of the tool kit needed for survival in a cold climate may have played a role in lessening the mobility of the users of all these possessions. “The large number of Mousterian sites uncovered in Europe and Western Asia, as well as clear differences between them, is closely related to Neanderthal’s improved hunting techniques, based on superior technology in weapon and tool making and more efficient social organization than before. These, in turn, were closely related to Neanderthal’s increased brain size(Haviland 234).”
The next major improvement in the development of tools was the Upper Paleolithic. This period began about 30,000 years ago and was characterized by the Cro-Magnon people. The typical tool of this period was the blade, which was a flint flake twice as long as it is wide. The new blade of this time was prepared when a “tool maker formed a cylindrical core, struck the blade off near the edge of the core, and repeated this procedure, going around the core in one direction until
finishing near its center (Haviland 253).” Another technique was called pressure flaking. In this technique a bone or other object was used to press rather than strike off small flakes. This period was different from all of the others because of the fact that the change from middle paleolithic to upper paleolithic occurred in a time scale of a millennia instead of several hundred millennia’s. The upper paleolithic period had more variety of stone tools and overall had more specialized tools for distinct tasks. Upper Paleolithic tool assemblages include end scrapers, burins (chisel-like stones for working bone and ivory), bone points, ivory beads, tooth necklaces, and abstract animal or human figurines. All these imply a parallel refinement in clothing, shelters, utensils, ornament, medicine, nutrition and ritual practices. By this time, then, stone and bone tool usage pervaded a great variety of other manufacturing activities and almost certainly produced both division of labor and social hierarchies based on toolmaking skills and personal or household possession of costly or precious artifacts. This is where we see the first artistic style in tool making. Another important innovation of this period was the invention of Net Hunting. “Like historically known net hunters, everyone – men, women, and children – probably participated, frightening animals with loud noises to drive them
to where hunters were stationed with their nets. In this way, large amounts of meat could be amassed in ways that did not put a premium on speed and strength(Haviland 258.” Another improvement in hunting was made with the invention of the bow and arrow. The greatest advantage of the bow was that it allowed the hunter to be 20 or so meters away from his prey and still have better accuracy then he would if he was 10 meters away throwing his spear. The highly developed tool kit of Cro-Magnons included tools for use during different seasons, and regional variations. “Only when the upper paleolithic cultures burst onto the scene 35,000 years ago did innovation and arbitrary order become pervasive (Leaky 210).”
In conclusion, one can see that the development of tools took place over the course of sever hundred millennia’s. Starting with the very crude tools of Homo Habilis and their oldowan technique of making tools, all the way up to the more modern Cro-Magnon people of the Homo Sapiens and their pressure flaking methods. Every single step throughout time has been vitally important to the production of newer tools such as power drills and power saws. Without the original technological advances of early hominids we would have no understanding of any prehistoric life. Their technological advances helped us to create more efficient tools which allow us to research these ancient cultures. As one can see, we are presently expanding our modern tool kits every decade; so who is to say what technological advances will be made in the next several millennia’s. Tools have evolved to influence, if not determine, human history.
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