Event 51

100,000 years ago

Aterian Points
Three Aterian points from North Africa, estimated to be about 50,000 years old.
Credit: Photo by Kathy Schick, courtesy of the Stone Age Institute. All rights reserved.

We take for granted that our modern tools are made up of different things, united together. A metal hammer or axe has a wooden handle, and a modern airliner might have a million separate components all working in unison. When did humans start putting things together?  It seems to have started between 100,000 and 75,000 years ago.  It appears that modern humans and their Neandertal cousins began to fasten (haft) stone and bone points to wooden spear shafts. Such hafted tools opened up a new range of possibilities for early humans, and made for new technological and functional possibilities.

Early bone points have been found at Blombos Cave at 70,000 and Sibudu Cave at 61,000 years ago, both in South Africa. Early stone points comes from the Aterian industry of North Africa (tanged points) going back to about 100,000 years ago, from the Middle Stone Age of Subsaharan Africa (bifacial leaf points), and the Middle Palaeolithic of Europe and the Middle East.


Aterian Point Line Drawing sketch
This is a line drawing of an Aterian tanged point.
Credit: Illustration by Locutus Borg, courtesy of Wikipedia.


We have evidence of stone and bone points from Africa and Europe from sites dating back to about 100,000 years ago. These points strongly suggest that they were hafted to wooden spear shafts and used for hunting activities, either to be thrown or thrust at the prey.


Hafted points are the very first evidence in the archaeological record of composite tools, which is tools made up of several different materials. These points indicate that they would have been hafted to a wooden spear shaft by the use of adhesive mastic (such as melted tree resin or the mineral pitch) or else lashed together by vegetable, sinew, or hide cordage. These projectile or thrusting points also strongly suggest that these prehistoric humans were getting more serious and methodical about hunting strategies.






This webpage shows a lot of primitive artifacts that people used, including a bone point.

Here is a webpage that shows how to make a bone point.

This webpage is about “Early Modern Human Culture.”

This is a Scientific American article about the earliest bone tools in Africa.




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