Nagoya University Unearths the Age-Old Rock Selection Secrets of Toolmakers


The toolmaking techniques of Paleolithic Middle Eastern people, who lived between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago, have been uncovered in new light by a recent study carried out by the Nagoya University Museum.

The research sheds insight on the sophisticated cognitive capacities of these ancient individuals by examining their ability to recognize and choose rocks for tool making.

The materials that were strategically chosen for toolmaking throughout the Middle and Upper Paleolithic eras were obsidian and flint, according to the researchers’ results. Because it was so easy to fracture and form into sharp edges, the transparent and smooth flint was highly sought after. This choice reveals an in-depth familiarity with material characteristics and the capacity to choose the best rocks for certain toolmaking tasks.

Material preferences changed dramatically throughout the millennia. Although it was difficult to work, medium-grained flint was prized for its durability by Paleolithic toolmakers, who used it most often for bigger implements. The researchers hypothesize that this preference for medium-grained flint arose because it is better suited for sturdy toolmaking due to the absence of internal cracks. A shift towards fine-grained flint, particularly for making smaller tools, did occur, nevertheless, as time went on. The reason for this change is that, although it is prone to internal fractures caused by geological processes, the force required to fracture it is lower.

This research elucidates our Paleolithic forebears’ thought processes. Their decision-making process in selecting tool materials shows a deep comprehension of several elements, such as the material’s appropriateness for various kinds of tools, its workability, and durability. This kind of action is indicative of the kind of strategic planning and anticipation that characterize contemporary human cognition. It highlights how smart our ancestors’ minds were; even without sophisticated technology, they made tools that showed incredible intellect and inventiveness.

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