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Humans evolved by sharing technology and culture

Our early ancestors, Homo sapiens, managed to evolve and journey across the earth by exchanging and improving their technology

Date:
February 2, 2016
Source:
The University of Bergen
Summary:
New findings from Blombos Cave show that Stone Age man in Africa exchanged technology to a large extent. The more contact between groups, the stronger technology developed. The exchange of tools can explain humans journey from Africa to Europe.Blombos Cave in South Africa gives vast knowledge of our early ancestors as early as 100,000 years ago.
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This image shows Blombos Cave, South Africa.
Credit: University of Bergen.

Blombos Cave in South Africa has given us vast knowledge about our early ancestors. In 2015, four open access articles, with research finds from Blombos as a starting point, have been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

"We are looking mainly at the part of South Africa where Blombos Cave is situated. We sought to find out how groups moved across the landscape and how they interacted," says Christopher S. Henshilwood, Professor at the University of Bergen (UiB) and University of the Witwatersrand and one of the authors of the articles.

The technology of our ancestors

Since its discovery in the early 1990s, Blombos Cave, about 300 kilometres east of Cape Town, South Africa, has yielded important new information on the behavioural evolution of the human species. The cave site was first excavated in 1991 and field work has been conducted there on a regular basis since 1997 -- and is on-going. Blombos contains Middle Stone Age deposits currently dated at between 100,000 and 70,000 years, and a Later Stone Age sequence dated at between 2,000 and 300 years.

The researchers from UiB and Witswatersrand have now been looking closer at technology used by different groups in this and other regions in South Africa, such as spear points made of stone, as well as decorated ostrich eggshells, to determine whether there was an overlap and contact across groups of Middle Stone Age humans. How did they make contact with each other? How would contact across groups affect one group? How did the exchange of symbolic material culture affect the group or groups?

Adapting and evolving

"The pattern we are seeing is that when demographics change, people interact more. For example, we have found similar patterns engraved on ostrich eggshells in different sites. This shows that people were probably sharing symbolic material culture, at certain times but not at others" says Dr Karen van Niekerk, a UiB researcher and co-author.

This sharing of symbolic material culture and technology also tells us more about Homo sapiens' journey from Africa, to Arabia and Europe. Contact between cultures has been vital to the survival and development of our common ancestors Homo sapiens. The more contact the groups had, the stronger their technology and culture became.

"Contact across groups, and population dynamics, makes it possible to adopt and adapt new technologies and culture and is what describes Homo sapiens. What we are seeing is the same pattern that shaped the people in Europe who created cave art many years later," Henshilwood says.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by The University of Bergen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Emmanuel Discamps, Christopher Stuart Henshilwood. Intra-Site Variability in the Still Bay Fauna at Blombos Cave: Implications for Explanatory Models of the Middle Stone Age Cultural and Technological Evolution. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (12): e0144866 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144866

Cite This Page:

The University of Bergen. "Humans evolved by sharing technology and culture: Our early ancestors, Homo sapiens, managed to evolve and journey across the earth by exchanging and improving their technology." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 February 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160202121246.htm>.
The University of Bergen. (2016, February 2). Humans evolved by sharing technology and culture: Our early ancestors, Homo sapiens, managed to evolve and journey across the earth by exchanging and improving their technology. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160202121246.htm
The University of Bergen. "Humans evolved by sharing technology and culture: Our early ancestors, Homo sapiens, managed to evolve and journey across the earth by exchanging and improving their technology." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160202121246.htm (accessed July 28, 2016).

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