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Stone Age Tools

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Examples of stone tools and why the earliest cavemen had no heavy weapons

(4th edition - October 2012) by A.O. Kime
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Caveman tools or geofacts?

We've all seen them... those pictures of the earliest known ‘stone tools’ supposedly crafted by cavemen during the Stone Age, but they are, in a way, disappointing, since most of those which archaeologists claim to be tools are basically featureless… taking a great deal of imagination to believe them a ‘tool’. Most of them look like an everyday rock one might find lying anywhere.

While assuredly some of these stones did actually serve as scrappers, cutters and hand axes (choppers) during the lower Paleolithic time period - being over 100,000 years ago - seemingly many are just geofacts. In other words, shaped by natural forces, not by man… in which case they would be called 'artifacts'.

Although it reveals something about their lifestyle even if only 5% were fashioned by cavemen, it falls way short of painting a true picture. In other words, one shouldn’t formulate entirely their perception of cavemen based on a few primitive tools. Yet, as if no other aspect of the caveman's lifestyle existed, the picture archaeologists paint of the early caveman is one of extreme primitiveness.

Wooden tools and devices ignored

While the picture archaeologists paint may be correct to some extent, the degree of primitiveness is exaggerated without mentioning cavemen also had wooden tools and devices. This has been ignored… even though it was a certainty. After all, wooden tools would be much easier to construct and the possible applications would be vastly greater than what is achievable with stones or bones. Further, one cannot construct a ‘device’ out of stone and would be highly restricted attempting it with bones.

Of course, there is no evidence cavemen had wooden tools and devices… those constructed during the Stone Age did not survive the ages, having been long since consumed by the elements. Nonetheless, wooden tools remains a certainty because people always choose the easiest method to achieve something. The probability these wooden tools and devices were occasionally complex also exists. Perhaps a few had moving parts… if only to consider a trigger or hinge on a trapdoor a moving part. To their credit, cavemen were the first to conceive and employ a hinge… and, however simple it may be considered, it's a mechanism still in use today.

While cavemen are primarily known for being adept at surviving - being experts at resourcefulness - it should also be recognized they were prolific inventors as well. After all, resourcefulness (the wellspring of innovation) walks hand-in-hand with survival. So too, resourcefulness is the best gauge of intelligence… although a reality academia commonly rejects. Further, it was during the Stone Age when the basis of all knowledge was established. After all, cavemen were the first to recognize, indeed employ, most laws of physics. Their contributions are countless… which range from the discovery of yeast for making bread to the art of celestial navigation. Cavemen developed a host of horticultural practices as well and introduced a broad range of medicines.

If not for the contributions of the Stone Age, modern conveniences wouldn't exist. From scratch, we'd have start all over again. Everything men now know - and all that's been achieved - was built upon the knowledge amassed during the Stone Age. Cavemen should be noted for their discoveries, not their primitiveness.

While the craftsmanship the cavemen applied to stone tools is generally believed to have begun sometime within last 30,000 years, and not much before, this craftsmanship is similar in many cases to those stone tools attributed to the Native Americans… be it ‘indians’ (of Asian ancestry) or the lesser known Caucasian inhabitants such as Kennewick Man.

common term scientific term time period (descending)
New Stone Age Neolithic 2,500 B.C.– 5,500 B.C.
Middle Stone Age Mesolithic 5,500 – 10,000 B.C.
Old Stone Age upper Paleolithic 10,000 – 30,000 B.C.
" middle Paleolithic 30,000 – 100,000 B.C.
" lower Paleolithic 100,000 - 2,000,000 B.C.

Examples of Stone Age tools

In the following pictured examples of some finely-crafted stone tools, please note that they were found in North America… and were NOT crafted by your stereotypical cavemen from Europe, Asia or Africa. Even though they were crafted by native Americans, it gives one an idea the diversity. These, at least, are more representative of a stone tool… being better examples than those featureless stones typically attributed to the lower Paleolithic time period of the Old Stone Age (100,000 B.C. to 2,000,000 B.C.).

So, how old are those pictured below? Probably most are older than 500 years and a few perhaps as old as 10,000 years. Since the last part of the Stone Age officially ended only 4,500 years ago (Neolithic period… or New Stone Age), then some of these are truly Stone Age artifacts… no matter who made them.

Yet, these tools are also tantalizingly close to having been constructed during the Old Stone Age. For example, if any of these pictured below were crafted more than 12,000 years ago, then we’d be talking about the upper Paleolithic period of the Old Stone Age (10,000 – 30,000 B.C.)

However, in a sense, due to the fact stone tools were still being crafted in America as little as 200-300 years ago, then the Stone Age still lingered despite the given scientific timeframes.

picture of 3 stone tools, an axe, a pick and a hammer

<----------------------------------------------------------------------- 12" ------------------------------------------------------------------------------->

Top left: This is a penetrating tool (6¾") primarily which could serve many purposes including digging and that of a weapon. The grooves in the stones are for securing it to a wooden handle held tightly together with rawhide strips. The handles would have been 12-18 inches long although for some purposes, perhaps longer.

Top right: This tool is an axe (7½") and, as such, could serve most any purpose an axe might serve which would include its use as a weapon. (Note the evidential wear on the lower part of the leading edge… indicating that if a handle existed in this picture, it would be pointing downward)

Bottom: This stone tool is a hammer and could serve most any purpose a hammer might serve… from pummeling grain to driving stakes or for delivering the coup de grace (deathblow) to the skull of animal either entrapped or gravely wounded (disabled) by hunters.

Towards the very end of the stone toolmaking era were the following types:

large arrowhead collection

<-------------------------------------------------------------------------- 22" ---------------------------------------------------------------------------->

This picture displays a mixed collection of stone weapons crafted by various prehistoric peoples who once roamed across America. Some of these arrowheads - the latest in stone tool development - could be attributed to the Folsom people (circa 8,000 B.C.) and perhaps the spear-points to the earlier Clovis (circa 9,500 B.C.). As to the origins of the large 6" axe, it is uncertain but would have little value as an all purpose axe since it only has one small notch… in contrast to the deeper grooves in those pictured further above. Not built for heavy work, and displaying virtually no wear like the others, this axe was likely intended to be only a weapon.

Why the early cavemen had no stone weapons

A haunting question lingers… why weren’t the earliest stone tools at least equal in workmanship to those attributed to later humans? Since it assuredly wasn’t a matter of intelligence, the following might explain it.

Perhaps the earliest cavemen were more-so vegetarians than carnivorous (meat-eaters)… as their simple skinning and hand-digging tools ('pebble tools' in general) seem to indicate. After all, they possessed no heavy-duty killing tools. Instead of openly confronting animals with the intent to slay them (thereby needing a heavy weapon) - but to the extent they were reliant on meat, and/or to fulfill their need for animal hides for clothing and shelter - they may have resorted to trapping them or utilized various snaring devices constructed of wood. This may have often sufficed given a plentitude of game, but not-so particularly if game became scarce which would then require the act of hunting.

However, we might also consider the killing of an animal exclusively for its hide may have only rarely occurred. It is only reasonable to assume that to the extent possible the hides of dead animals recently slain by predators were commonly harvested.

So, in this analysis, having tossed aside ‘lack of intelligence’ for being an ill-conceived and unproven explanation, the missing heavy-duty killing tools can easily be explained... either they didn’t eat meat or were trappers/fishermen instead. In other words, they weren't hunters in the sense of stalking their prey. Or, to put this in the context of ‘hunter/gatherer’, at this point in time they were more-so just ‘gatherers’.

While there was obviously no need for heavy stone weapons during the early days (lower Paleolithic) - since there is no evidence of any - evidently that changed over time in perhaps the following order:

1) In the beginning - and for millennia thereafter - there was a stigma attached to the eating of flesh (being spiritually repulsive… just as cannibalism is today). In the general sense, they looked upon animals as God’s creatures rather than the next meal… similarly to how modern humans regard their household pets. In short, their tools suggest the earliest humans were passive and thus... spiritual. On the same token however, they naturally did whatever was necessary to survive... which may have often conflicted with their basic nature. Interestingly, these cavemen were assuredly the first to tangle with a 'moral dilemma'.

Note: Paradoxically, the American Indians viewed animals as both God's creatures (in the spiritual sense) AND the next meal... believing (in essence) that the Great Spirit provided animals as a food source. Whether this belief existed in the Old Stone age, or whether it later evolved into a 'feel good' justification for the killing of animals, is unknown. However, since justifying is inherently human, it was likely not the original belief. If not, then man eventually managed to neutralize this moral dilemma.

2) Eventually, but over the course of centuries, cavemen evolved culturally from being vegetarians (essentially) to being carnivorous as well. The eating of animal flesh gradually became more socially acceptable… despite the otherwise unyielding conformist mind-set typical of clans and tribes*. The impetus for change was due to the growing human population and the need for alternative food sources... although the long-repressed craving for a 'balanced diet' surely factored in. For some time however, aside from trapping and snaring animals, hunting remained more-so a matter of wits and limited to smaller game (as evidenced by their stone tools). Importantly however, it was more-so a matter of choice, not capabilities. Nonetheless, it was the beginnings of a great transition period of historic proportions, a time when cavemen were becoming aggressive… not only towards animals but to each other as well.

* As a result of our ancient roots, the pressure to conform is still deeply felt… being the vestiges of ‘proper mannerisms’ developed by yesteryear’s close-knit clans and tribes. Yet, conforming was necessary... because, for ages, uniformity was an integral part of survival. It was a tactic. We should therefore be able to relate to the ‘natural’ societal resistance to any such drastic change and why it took so long.

3) As a result of the growing demand for food - which now included meat - the scarcity of game became more commonplace which then necessitated the hunting of larger animals. Although, to a great extent, it was also a matter of the differences in taste. Larger animals - in addition to the meat of smaller animals - also provided man a more diverse menu. This was in contrast to previous times when openly confronting large animals was undoubtedly considered a risky business and unnecessary as long as trapping sufficed. As their skills progressed, and in conjunction with weapon refinements, for efficiency the largest animals soon became the caveman’s target of choice.

Note: Hunters of mammoth, bison and elk were probably held in high esteem… as if being Stone Age ‘supermen’. In comparison, such hunters were likely looked upon as being courageous heroes... the equivalent of someone gutsy like Ferdinand Magellan, a gladiator or an astronaut.

4) As a result of the growing population, disputes were inevitable and with the growing ability to kill more easily and thus more efficiently, simple stone axes soon became battle axes. Instead of having just a few spears on hand for hunting, wars demanded they be produced in mass.

As to exactly when this cultural change began to occur, it directly corresponds to the oldest of these ‘more advanced’ stone tools. Since much of this dating has already been done, then it generally began about 30,000 years ago… or towards the end of the upper Paleolithic time period (30,000 – 100,000 B.C.). However, it has been the consensus of archaeologists that it merely indicates a time when our ancient ancestors finally became smart enough to produce such finely-crafted tools… except this notion is shallow-minded, ill-conceived, unsubstantiated and wrong. It was simply a cultural turning point.

So, effectually, mankind evolved from the passiveness of the vegetarian to the aggressive nature of the carnivore. It is the most notable aspect of 'human evolution'... and mankind’s acquired taste for meat further evolved into his taste for blood (wars). After all, psychologically from one to the other would be a natural transition. Further, as to intellect, only warriors would tax their God-given limits… meaning peace-loving peoples are always ‘less advanced’.

A.O. Kime

Last modified: 10/25/13