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Early humans woodworking was way ahead of its time

Recent research has unveiled the sophisticated woodworking techniques employed by early humans in a revelation that significantly broadens our understanding of our ancient ancestors.

Consequently, this discovery emerges from a collaborative study undertaken by the Lower Saxony State Office for Cultural Heritage (NLD) and the Universities of Reading and Göttingen. It highlights the use of wood splitting by early humans, not just for hunting, but also for processing animal hides.

Leveraging advanced imaging technologies for the first time, researchers employed 3D microscopy and micro-CT scanning to delve into the past.

Their efforts have brought to light the oldest known complete hunting weapons, unearthed at Schöningen, Germany. These artifacts, dating back an astonishing 300,000 years, offer unprecedented insight into the technological prowess of early humans.

Ancient woodworking and tool maintenance

The implications of these findings are profound, marking the first time we have concrete evidence of pre-Homo sapiens‘ engagement in complex woodworking and wood splitting.

These early humans not only created but also meticulously maintained their hunting tools, demonstrating advanced techniques previously unknown.

The study, published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, unveils a nuanced aspect of early human behavior.

It reveals that early hunters were not simply fabricating spears and throwing sticks from available materials. They were also actively engaging in the repair and recycling of these tools.

Moreover, this behavior upends the previously held belief that advanced technological practices were exclusive to Homo sapiens. It suggests a level of resourcefulness and foresight in our ancient relatives that was, until now, unacknowledged.

Woodworking mastery of early humans

Dr. Dirk Leder of the NLD provided insights into the diversity and complexity of the woodworking techniques uncovered by their research.

The study reveals that early humans exhibited selectivity in their material choices. They opted for specific types of roundwoods to craft into weapons. These crafted weapons were then transported to the Schöningen site.

Moreover, the research team found that when these tools were damaged or broke, they weren’t simply discarded. Instead, their points were re-sharpened, and the tools were refurbished for continued use.

This high level of tool maintenance and recycling reflects more than just an understanding of available materials. It also signifies a strategic approach to wood splitting and resource management.

Craftsmanship that stands the test of time

Adding further surprise to the findings, Dr. Annemieke Milks from the University of Reading expressed astonishment at the exceptional craftsmanship of the wooden tools.

The research uncovered a significant number of previously unpublished spear and throwing stick fragments. This finding highlights the advanced skill level involved in their manufacture.

Furthermore, this aspect of the discovery highlights an expertise in early human woodworking that was previously unrecognized.

It suggests that these ancient craftsmen were pioneers, adept at manipulating wood into effective tools and weapons.

Schöningen spears

The Schöningen site has proven to be a treasure trove of information. Researchers discovered at least 20 spears and throwing sticks there, dating back to a warm interglacial period 300,000 years ago.

Subsequently, this significant find, along with other wooden artifacts unearthed over the years, emphasizes the critical role of wood as a raw material in the evolution of early humans.

The wide variety of woodworking techniques observed in the weapons and tools from Schöningen clearly evidences our ancestors’ extensive experience.

This experience encompasses not just technical know-how, but also sophisticated work processes in woodworking.

Moreover, this not only illustrates the importance of such skills in their survival and development but also highlights wood’s indispensable role in the technological advancements of early human societies.

Implications of early humans’ woodworking skills

Professor Thomas Terberger, the project leader from the NLD and the University of Göttingen, reflected on the significance of wood in human evolution.

He emphasized that while wood was a crucial material for our ancestors, it is only at Schöningen that such artifacts from the Paleolithic period have been preserved in exceptional quality.

Consequently, this preservation provides unparalleled insights into the technological capabilities and resourcefulness of early humans. It enriches our understanding of their culture and ingenuity significantly.

As we delve deeper into the mysteries of our past, the Schöningen findings serve as a poignant reminder of the enduring ingenuity of the human spirit.

These discoveries contribute significantly to our archaeological and historical knowledge. Moreover, they celebrate the complexity and depth of human creativity through the ages.

As we continue to uncover the legacies of those who came before us, we are reminded of the remarkable journey of human innovation and adaptability, shedding new light on the capabilities of pre-Homo sapiens societies and challenging us to appreciate the profound depths of our shared heritage.

The full study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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