There is another article in New Scientist about the work of a remarkable scientist called Bruce Bradley, who lived in Arizona as a child, and was fascinated by the Native American flint tools and arrowheads that are common there. So, he started to try to copy them. He is now at the University of Exeter, and is a master flint-knapper, and he teaches this to some of his students. Here is a video of him at work http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pfrf9HSLOrk
He has continued to study flints, and from copying the different styles that are found, and using the dating information about them, he has discovered clues to the development of consciousness:-
- The earliest flints are about 2.6 million years old from the Oldowan era (Australopithecus garhi), and while they are simple, they show that man at this stage had motor control and dexterity. While primates may have greater strength than men, none of them are able to strike sharply and accurately enough to do this.
- Acheulean axes (1.6 mya, Homo erectus) are thinner and more symmetrical as they began to embody a more systematic style of working. It is a more complicated design showing hierarchical thinking and planning ability – the chunking and sequencing of thoughts
- 600,000 years ago, H. heidelbergensis uses a wider variety of tools, including refined hand axes, cleavers and spearheads, and they must have had good powers of visualization do “see” these in the lump of raw material, and they probably had some language skills so that the tool makers and the users could communicate together and “place their orders”.
- Levallois tools from 300,000 years ago (Neanderthal) are very complicated to make – sometimes these need many stages, sometimes numerous preparatory trimmings before one accurate strike removes the completed tool from the block. It takes a great deal of patience to learn how to do this, and the students could not have evolved the most advanced designs for themselves – they must have been taught by a teacher ! (as he shows in the video)
It is interesting to get this idea of the abilities of man at these historical stages from such tangible evidence.
Early man was clearly able to plan his work, able to teach his skills to others, and able to communicate between people who wanted particular flint tools and those who could make them, and make some sort of exchange. Scientists generally have a low opinion of such "primitive" people, whereas the spiritual teachings state that they had highly evelved civilisations befor ours, such as Atlantis, although no real trace of this has been found yet
New Scientist, 1st March 2014, p 34. "The story in the stones"