Tool Making

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Human Uniqueness Compared to "Great Apes": 
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Humans are elaborate tool makers. All peoples fashion pounders, containers, cutters, levers, string (tying materials), and weapons. The drill is very widespread if not universal. Humans make permanent tools and make tools to make tools. The tools are often, if not always, made in stylized patterns that allow the tools of one people or group or individual to be readily distinguished from others. Tool making is of very great antiquity, present in almost all sites where there are archaeological remains of humans and present alongside the remains of earlier hominins. Evidence for the use of tools (cut marks on bones) dates to 2,500k BP. Dyed fiber for string dates to 30k BP. Tool making occurs in other species, including nonhuman primates, but usually on an as-needed basis and without stylization.


Timing of appearance of the difference in the Hominin Lineage as a defined date or a lineage separation event. The point in time associated with lineage separation events may change in the future as the scientific community agrees upon better time estimates. Lineage separation events are defined in 2017 as:

  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and old world monkeys was 25,000 - 30,000 thousand (25 - 30 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and chimpanzees was 6,000 - 8,000 thousand (6 - 8 million) years ago
  • the emergence of the genus Homo was 2,000 thousand (2 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and neanderthals was 500 thousand years ago
  • the common ancestor of modern humans was 100 - 300 thousand years ago

Probable Appearance: 
2,500 thousand years ago
Definite Appearance: 
2,000 thousand years ago


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  2. East-to-west human dispersal into Europe 1.4 million years ago, Garba, R., Usyk V., Ylä-Mella L., Kameník J., Stübner K., Lachner J., Rugel G., Veselovský F., Gerasimenko N., Herries A. I. R., et al. , Nature, 2024/03/06, (2024)
  3. A surge in obsidian exploitation more than 1.2 million years ago at Simbiro III (Melka Kunture, Upper Awash, Ethiopia), Mussi, Margherita, Mendez-Quintas Eduardo, Barboni Doris, Bocherens Hervé, Bonnefille Raymonde, Briatico Giuseppe, Geraads Denis, Melis Rita T., Panera Joaquin, Pioli Laura, et al. , Nature Ecology and Evolution, 2023/01/19, (2023)
  4. Expanded geographic distribution and dietary strategies of the earliest Oldowan hominins and Paranthropus, Plummer, Thomas W., Oliver James S., Finestone Emma M., Ditchfield Peter W., Bishop Laura C., Blumenthal Scott A., Lemorini Cristina, Caricola Isabella, Bailey Shara E., Herries Andy I. R., et al. , Science, 2023/02/10, Volume 379, Issue 6632, p.561 - 566, (2023)
  5. Direct dating of lithic surface artifacts using luminescence, Gliganic, Luke Andrew, Meyer Michael Christian, May Jan-Hendrik, Aldenderfer Mark Steven, and Tropper Peter , Science Advances, 2021/06/01, Volume 7, Issue 23, p.eabb3424, (2021)
  6. Middle Pleistocene Homo behavior and culture at 140,000 to 120,000 years ago and interactions with Homo sapiens, Zaidner, Yossi, Centi Laura, Prévost Marion, Mercier Norbert, Falguères Christophe, Guérin Gilles, Valladas Helene, Richard Maïlys, Galy Asmodée, Pécheyran Christophe, et al. , Science, 2021/06/25, Volume 372, Issue 6549, p.1429, (2021)
  7. Modelling the end of the Acheulean at global and continental levels suggests widespread persistence into the Middle Palaeolithic, Key, Alastair J. M., Jarić Ivan, and Roberts David L. , Humanities & Social Sciences Communications, 2021/03/02, Volume 8, Issue 1, p.55, (2021)
  8. Co-occurrence of Acheulian and Oldowan artifacts with Homo erectus cranial fossils from Gona, Afar, Ethiopia, Semaw, Sileshi, Rogers Michael J., Simpson Scott W., Levin Naomi E., Quade Jay, Dunbar Nelia, McIntosh William C., Cáceres Isabel, Stinchcomb Gary E., Holloway Ralph L., et al. , Science Advances, 2020/03/01, Volume 6, Issue 10, p.eaaw4694, (2020)
  9. Raw material optimization and stone tool engineering in the Early Stone Age of Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania), Key, Alastair, Proffitt Tomos, and de la Torre Ignacio , Journal of The Royal Society Interface, 2020/01/29, Volume 17, Issue 162, p.20190377, (2020)
  10. Earliest known Oldowan artifacts at >2.58 Ma from Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia, highlight early technological diversity, Braun, David R., Aldeias Vera, Archer Will, J Arrowsmith Ramón, Baraki Niguss, Campisano Christopher J., Deino Alan L., DiMaggio Erin N., Dupont-Nivet Guillaume, Engda Blade, et al. , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2019/05/29, p.201820177, (2019)
  11. More data needed for claims about the earliest Oldowan artifacts, Sahle, Yonatan, and Gossa Tegenu , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2019/10/08, Volume 116, Issue 41, p.20259, (2019)
  12. Recycling for a purpose in the late Lower Paleolithic Levant: Use-wear and residue analyses of small sharp flint items indicate a planned and integrated subsistence behavior at Qesem Cave (Israel), Venditti, Flavia, Nunziante-Cesaro Stella, Parush Yoni, Gopher Avi, and Barkai Ran , Journal of Human Evolution, 2019/06/01/, Volume 131, p.109 - 128, (2019)
  13. First evidence of an extensive Acheulean large cutting tool accumulation in Europe from Porto Maior (Galicia, Spain), Méndez-Quintas, E., Santonja M., Pérez-González A., Duval M., Demuro M., and Arnold L. J. , 02/2018, Volume 8, Issue 1, p.3082, (2018)
  14. The manual pressures of stone tool behaviors and their implications for the evolution of the human hand, Williams-Hatala, Erin Marie, Hatala Kevin G., Gordon McKenzie, Key Alastair, Kasper Margaret, and Kivell Tracy L. , Journal of Human Evolution, 2018/06/01/, Volume 119, p.14 - 26, (2018)
  15. The evolution of cognitive mechanisms in response to cultural innovations, Lotem, Arnon, Halpern Joseph Y., Edelman Shimon, and Kolodny Oren , PNAS, 2017/07/25, Volume 114, Issue 30, p.7915 - 7922, (2017)
  16. An earlier origin for stone tool making: implications for cognitive evolution and the transition to Homo, Lewis, Jason E., and Harmand Sonia , Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 2016/06/13, Volume 371, Issue 1698, (2016)
  17. The origins of the Acheulean: past and present perspectives on a major transition in human evolution, de la Torre, Ignacio , Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 2016/06/13, Volume 371, Issue 1698, (2016)
  18. Travel fosters tool use in wild chimpanzees, Gruber, Thibaud, Zuberbühler Klaus, and Neumann Christof , eLife, 07/2016, Volume 5, p.e16371, (2016)
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  20. Chimpanzees prey on army ants at Seringbara, Nimba Mountains, Guinea: predation patterns and tool use characteristics., Koops, Kathelijne, Schöning Caspar, McGrew William C., and Matsuzawa Tetsuro , Am J Primatol, 2015 Mar, Volume 77, Issue 3, p.319-29, (2015)
  21. Cognitive demands of lower paleolithic toolmaking., Stout, Dietrich, Hecht Erin, Khreisheh Nada, Bradley Bruce, and Chaminade Thierry , PLoS One, 2015, Volume 10, Issue 4, p.e0121804, (2015)
  22. Early Upper Paleolithic chronology in the Levant: new ABOx-SC accelerator mass spectrometry results from the Mughr el-Hamamah Site, Jordan., Stutz, Aaron Jonas, Shea John J., Rech Jason A., Pigati Jeffrey S., Wilson Jim, Belmaker Miriam, Albert Rosa Maria, Arpin Trina, Cabanes Dan, Clark Jamie L., et al. , J Hum Evol, 2015 Aug, Volume 85, p.157-73, (2015)
  23. Estimating thumb-index finger precision grip and manipulation potential in extant and fossil primates., Feix, Thomas, Kivell Tracy L., Pouydebat Emmanuelle, and Dollar Aaron M. , J R Soc Interface, 2015 May 6, Volume 12, Issue 106, (2015)
  24. Insights into early lithic technologies from ethnography., Hayden, Brian , Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 2015 Nov 19, Volume 370, Issue 1682, (2015)
  25. The evolution of the hominin thumb and the influence exerted by the non-dominant hand during stone tool production., Key, Alastair J. M., and Dunmore Christopher J. , J Hum Evol, 2015 Jan, Volume 78, p.60-9, (2015)
  26. Age and date for early arrival of the Acheulian in Europe (Barranc de la Boella, la Canonja, Spain)., Vallverdú, Josep, Saladié Palmira, Rosas Antonio, Huguet Rosa, Cáceres Isabel, Mosquera Marina, García-Tabernero Antonio, Estalrrich Almudena, Lozano-Fernández Iván, Pineda-Alcalá Antonio, et al. , PLoS One, 2014, Volume 9, Issue 7, p.e103634, (2014)
  27. Old stones’ song: Use-wear experiments and analysis of the Oldowan quartz and quartzite assemblage from Kanjera South (Kenya), Lemorini, C., Plummer T., Braun D., Crittenden A., Ditchfield P., Bishop L., Hertel F., Oliver J., Marlowe F., Schoeninger M., et al. , Journal of Human Evolution, 07/2014, Volume 72, p.10-25, (2014)