5.VI: Archaeology Gallery

Modern humans of 100,000 years ago looked just like we do today, so we have reached the end of our ancestral picture gallery.  We will continue looking at the artifacts that people left behind.

In the Middle Stone Age, toolmakers’ attention shifted from the core to the flakes.  Cores were carefully “prepared” so that knapping would easily produce the desired flakes. 

A 70,000 year old spear point in South Africa 1

The most important flake tools were spear points, awls for punching holes in leather, and scrapers for preparing hides and wood.  Some tools were forged with heat treatment. 

The blade was one of the most important innovations of the Upper Paleolithic

A blade made 30 or 40 TYA by the Aurignacians in France 2

Personal ornamentation was one of the earliest signs of the “modern” human mind.  These Middle Stone Age seashells were found at Blombos Cave, South Africa. They have been carefully drilled, probably for stringing on a necklace.  Some shells were dyed with red ochre.  Similar specimens in Israel date to 100 TYA.

Blombos Cave shell beads 3
This upper Paleolithic bone flute shows that people were enjoying music 40 – 50 TYA 4

The oldest known visual art took the form of handprints and simple geometric designs.

Handprints negative-painted in Indonesia 40 – 50 TYA 5
France, 30 TYA 6

Art quickly became representational.  It usually depicted animals, like the rhinos above or the ivory lion-man below.

Germany, 40 TYA 7


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Ch. 5 Margin Notes


  1. Point photograph by Vincent Mourre / Inrap, CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blombos_point_white.JPG (accessed and saved 11/24/19, archived 12/29/19).
  2. Blade photograph by Archaeodontosaurus, CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.de), https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Pointe_de_la_gravette_MHNT_PRE_2009.0.231.1_(2).jpg (accessed and saved 11/25/19, archived 12/29/19).
  3. Photo of shell beads by Chris Henshilwood, user Chenshilwood at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BBC-shell-beads.jpg (accessed, saved, and archived 12/07/19).
  4. Flute photograph by José-Manuel Benito Álvarez, CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flauta_paleol%C3%ADtica.jpg (accessed and saved 12/07/19, archived 12/29/19).
  5. Handprint photograph by Cahyo Ramadhani, CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hands_in_Pettakere_Cave_DYK_crop.jpg (accessed and saved 12/07/19, archived 12/29/19).
  6. Photo of rhino art public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rhinos_Chauvet_Cave.jpg (accessed and saved 12/07/19, archived 12/29/19).
  7. Lion man photograph by Dagmar Hollmann, CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), from Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Loewenmensch1.jpg (accessed and saved 12/15/2018, archived 12/29/19).
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