Link Tools in the Stone Age

show/hide words to know

Butcher: the individual who cuts meat from a dead animal.

Butchering: the process of removing meat from an animal or cutting it into smaller pieces.

Cutmark: a small mark on a bone that is caused from a tool used to cut off meat.

Use-wear: scientific study of what stone tools were used for.

Right tool for the job

A variety of stone tools. Click for more detail.Not every type of rock is good for making flakes. Like Goldilocks’ porridge, some are too hard, some are too soft, and some are just right. Our ancestors had to figure this out and start picking out only the stones that were good for specific jobs.

So how do we know what kind of jobs stone tools were being used for in the past?

When stone tools are used, they get dull and worn out. When this happens, small marks and scuffs are left on the edges of the tools. Archaeologists do experiments where they use stone tools in the same ways as they think tools were used in the past. They can then study the small scars, polishes, and residues that form on the experimental tools. This gives them an idea of what caused the prehistoric stone tools to become dull. Types of studies like these are called use-wear analysis.

Cutmarked bone from Blombos Cave. Click for more detail.Animal bones at archaeology sites are also used to tell what tools were used for. Cutting meat off animal bones leaves small marks on the surface of the bone. These cutmarks are visible under a microscope. Finding cutmarks tells us that those bones were part of a hominin's meal and that stone tools were used to butcher the animal.

What can rocks and sediments tell us about how our ancient ancestors developed over the last 4 million years?
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