Stone-age humans mastered the art of elegant hand-toolmaking in an evolutionary advance that boosted their brain power and potentially paved the way for language, researchers say.
The design of stone tools changed dramatically in human pre-history, beginning more than two million years ago with sharp but primitive stone flakes, and culminating in exquisite, finely honed hand axes 500,000 years ago.
The development of sophisticated stone tools, including sturdy cutting and sawing edges, is considered a key moment in human evolution, as it set the stage for better nutrition and advanced social behaviours, such as the division of labour and group hunting.
“There has been a long discussion in the archaeology community about why it took so long to make more complex stone tools. Did we simply lack the manual dexterity, or were we just not smart enough to think about better techniques?” said Aldo Faisal, a neuroscientist at Imperial College London.