Cutting edge training developed the human brain 80,000 years ago

June 21, 2011

Advanced crafting of stone spearheads contributed to the development of new ways of human thinking and behaving.

This is what new findings by at Lund University have shown. The technology took a long time to acquire, required step by step planning and increased across the generations. This led to the developing new abilities.

200 000 years ago, small groups of people wandered across Africa, looking like us anatomically but not thinking the way we do today. Studies of fossils and the rate of in show that the to which we all belong – Homo sapiens sapiens – has existed for 200 000 years. But the archaeological research of recent years has shown that, even though the most ancient traces of modern humans are 200 000 years old, the development of modern cognitive behaviour is probably much younger. For about 100 000 years, there were people who looked like us, but who acted on the basis of cognitive structures in which we would only partially recognise ourselves and which we do not define today as modern behaviour.

It is precisely that period of transformation that the researchers at Lund University in Sweden have studied. In the next issue of the well renowned Journal of Human Evolution, they present their new findings on the early modern humans that existed in what is now South Africa, approximately 80 000 years ago.

The findings show that people at that time used advanced technology for the production of spearheads and that the complicated crafting process developed the working memory and social life of humans.

"When the technology was passed from one generation to the next, from adults to children, it became part of a cultural learning process which created a socially more advanced society than before. This affected the development of the human brain and cognitive ability", says Anders Högberg, PhD.

The technology led to increased social interaction within and across the . This happened because the crafting of stone spearheads took a long time to learn and required a lot of knowledge, both theoretical and practical. Producing a stone spearhead also required the ability to plan in several stages. This social learning contributed to the subsequent development of early modern humans' cognitive ability to express symbolism and abstract thoughts through their material culture, for example in the form of decorated objects.

"The excavations have been carried out in a small cave; the location we have studied is called Hollow Rock Shelter and lies 250 km north of Cape Town. We are cooperating with the University of Cape Town and the research we have just published is part of a larger research project on this location", says Professor Lars Larsson.

Explore further: World's oldest human remains claimed in Israel

More information: The article is entitled Lithic technology and behavioural modernity: New results from the Still Bay site, Hollow Rock Shelter, Western Cape Province, South Africa. See link below: … a738f8080c0e473c6c11

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3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 21, 2011
Apparently, while we were making our first tools, our first tools were making us. You could make an argument that medical science has ended human evolution based on gross natural selection for resistance to injury or disease. But we STILL make tools, each year more advanced than the year before. So is the evolutionary process still in play after all? And on what time scale does it operate NOW?
1 / 5 (51) Jun 21, 2011
Jscroft, you can view evolution as both preceding and succeeding biology. I think of biology as only one evolutionary paradigm. Before biology you would have had some sort of evolution between self replicating molecules with some memory. Eventually what we consider true life would have came about accelerating the process. Eventually we developed brains allowing us to adapt more quickly. Brains gave us tools, and according to this article vice versa.

Tools most likely will give way to self replicating intelligent machinery. These machines will take their design into their own hands. You may consider this the end of evolution, but I see it as a new paradigm in the process.
5 / 5 (2) Jun 21, 2011
I'd be prepared to make an argument that medical science has in no way at all brought some sort of end to evolution. Evolution is a process that takes place from generation to generation through selection. Unless we're going to somehow halt all reproduction on the planet, evolution is going to occur. It's an ongoing process, and just because we've come to better understand the nature of the process, does not mean in any way that it has come to an end.
3.5 / 5 (2) Jun 21, 2011
Evolution is brought about through selection pressure.

Humans are much less susceptible to Natural Selection than we were before technology. We're in an age now of Socio-Technological Selection.

'Mother Nature' isn't the primary selection force on humans any longer, we are ourselves.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 21, 2011
@FrankHerbert: Agreed.

On another note, I'm rereading the _Dune_ trilogy again, for the first time in a decade or so. Brilliant work, sir! :)
not rated yet Jun 21, 2011
more one: evolution make talk. talk make evolution. keeping on. peoples like talk. so on. too many talk now. me go.
not rated yet Jun 21, 2011
I think an important part which is being missed here, and I believe it occured earlier than 80k years ago, was the increase in life expectancy. Once parents passed reproductive age and became grandparents, they became a teaching resource to the young while the "breadwinners" were out killing the game or grubbing up roots. Introducing technology early to children was probably where the real leap forward came from.
2.6 / 5 (7) Jun 22, 2011
Man has since been changed with each new tool he's learned -- from spoken language to written word to printed word to computer and internet (I'm clearly missing many).

We do not just use tools. Tools also change us, every time, without fail. It's called neuro-plasticity, I believe. And you have it all the way to your death. You can even learn how to be more creative, if you want.
4.6 / 5 (5) Jun 22, 2011
How can you say something as reasonable as this:
Man has since been changed with each new tool he's learned -- from spoken language to written word to printed word to computer and internet (I'm clearly missing many).

We do not just use tools. Tools also change us, every time, without fail. It's called neuro-plasticity, I believe. And you have it all the way to your death. You can even learn how to be more creative, if you want.

and yet be such a nutjob when it comes to cosmology? (and excerpt from your prior work):

Within the electrical framework, stars split when exposed to exceptional electrical stress. They do this in order to increase their surface area, which effectively decreases the electrical stress.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 22, 2011
Movie stars?

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