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Tool Use By Humans Pushed Back By 800,000 Years

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the oldest-spoon dept.

Science 189

gpronger writes "The journal Nature reports that newly discovered tool marks on bones indicates that we were using tools at minimum 800,000 years earlier than previously thought. This places the start of tool use at 3.4 million years ago or earlier. The most likely ancestor in this time frame would be Australopithecus afarensis. The researchers, led by palaeoanthropologist Zeresenay Alemseged of the California Academy of Science, San Francisco,and Shannon McPherron, (an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany) state that cut marks on the bones of an impala-sized creature and another closer in size to a buffalo, indicate butchering of the animals by our distant ancestors. However, they do not believe that they were in fact hunters, more likely scavenging the remains left behind by large predators."

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189 comments

What, from their club days? (4, Funny)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226094)

Oh, wait... wrong Tool.

(I hate babysitting databases... makes the brain go all squiggly at 2 in the morning. At least now I can stop wondering if they found a fossilized CD player next to the bones...)

Re:What, from their club days? (1)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226474)

I hate babysitting databases...

You had me wondering for quite a while here about who
the hell would run a babysitting database, and if it could
be someone from the "think of the children" crowd...

Re:What, from their club days? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33226490)

Why exactly are you looking at babysitting databases? And why does that make you squiggly? And get that poor girl out of the freezer!

Tool use is widespread (5, Insightful)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226118)

Turns out we're not the only animal that uses tools [wikipedia.org] so there's no reason why it would have appeared recently in human evolution. What's more impressive is our ability to design tools to attain a certain objective by using only our imagination (abstract thought) rather than the ability to pick up a rock from the vicinity to carve up a carcass. That's likely much more recent.

"That's likely much more recent" - Really? (4, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226196)

You may be correct, but you have not the slightest evidence to back up that claim. There are many, many other issues to consider, such as environmental pressure or the lack thereof, and the difficulty of abstract thought before there were any abstractions - the bootstrap problem. Our present ability to think of new tools in an environment surrounded by them is not, perhaps, that impressive. The first person to think of trimming a sharp rock for better performance was a genuine innovator.

Re:"That's likely much more recent" - Really? (4, Funny)

asc99c (938635) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226666)

> The first person to think of trimming a sharp rock for better performance was a genuine innovator.

If only they'd patented it!

Re:"That's likely much more recent" - Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33227972)

Yeah, then it would be prior cave-art.

Re:"That's likely much more recent" - Really? (5, Funny)

discord5 (798235) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226822)

The first person to think of trimming a sharp rock for better performance was a genuine innovator.

Sadly, the word innovation and all the derivative vocabulary that comes with it due to overuse in the latest marketing fodder triggered an image of a caveman named Zog making a sharper rock. When he had finally created this technological marvel the word quickly spread in the local tribal community. The tribe would go out hunting, and those whose rocks didn't meet required sharpness criteria would be considered to be fools clinging to obsolete technology. In a matter of days, Zog had ascended from lowly rockbasher to an expert in the field of innovative hunting.

Zog had it all: finely cut food from the most tasty animals the local wildlife had to offer, the adoration of the masses, commanding power over the world because of his fearsomely sharp weaponry, and a veritable harem of alluring females. A few weeks after his rise to power though, things weren't looking so great anymore for Zog. Nerg, the foul smelling tribal lunatic, had taken his innovative rocksharpening technique and had improved the process by a factor of 2 by means of sustained repetitive bashing. No longer did Zog have the sharpest rocks in the tribe, and almost instantaneously he lost it all. The masses no longer adored him for they were too busy hunting with Nerg. His power over the world stagnated and eventually had to make way for the sharper weaponry of Nerg. But most important of all, his considerably sized harem of willing females left him for the newer more powerful rocksharpener.

And that is how the Tribal Patent Orgnanization was formed. Scratched into a cavewall for all eternity we find the worlds first patent: "TPO Issued Patent #00000001 : A technique for sharpening rocks by bashing rocks against eachother.". It includes various drawings on rock sharpening techniques and a vague description of acquiring a harem by the use of these techniques. Unfortunately Zog never got to sue Nerg in a tribal court of law, because Nerg bashed in his skull with an incredibly sharp rock several minutes after filing the patent.

To this day, Nerg is remembered as the worlds first innovator and harem owner.

True story!

(I apologize for the precious time I stole from you to read this, but the code I'm writing right now is slowly killing my brain unless I entertain it a little in small doses. Tune in next comment, when Dorg invents fire and accidentally burns down his cave, and is remembered throughout history as the worlds smartest and most stupid caveman of all time. Don't miss out on how Dorg later also invents insurance fraud.)

Re:"That's likely much more recent" - Really? (3, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226864)

alleged insurance fraud. It hasn't been proven yet.

Re:"That's likely much more recent" - Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33226924)

Our present ability to think of new tools in an environment surrounded by them is not, perhaps, that impressive.

That part is at least testable, albeit not particularly ethical - go raise a child in the wilderness somewhere without using any tools beyond what you can find naturally and see if they intuitively solve the abstraction problem. If they do, it's likely a developed part of the brain, if not then you're right, the first person to show us how this was done was probably the pivotal point in human development (Adam, as it were, unless it was an Eve).

Re:"That's likely much more recent" - Really? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33226976)

You'd more likely need a pack of feral children. One of the traits we share in common with much of the animal world is the ability to observe and replicate, which wouldn't require abstract thought. All it would take is just one person with some genetic aberration to be able to design these tools, and the rest of the pack could follow. They wouldn't necessarily know *why* they're doing it the way they are, but they know doing so would produce a desired outcome. Monkey see, monkey do.

not exactly... (4, Informative)

m.shenhav (948505) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226232)

It should be noted that while human imagination is alright, its in fact failing us most of the time when it comes to technology (as statistics on patents and businesses show). It can be thought of as mutation in the process of cultural evolution.

People try stuff out and see what works, often discovering a very different application then originally intended or finding the thing useless. This is selection.

It is the accurate transmission (or in evolution terms reproduction) of complex multi-step tool production methods that allows for cumulative cultural evolution. This kind of thing is hard to prove for animals- but there are chimpanzee troops with multi-step tool production.

The recombination of such behaviors/tools/ideas is accelerating the process even further, which is why technological evolution is accelerating while genetically we haven't changed that much (conjecture!). In fact we have not so distant relatives (so called Boskop man) that had larger average cranial volume.

Re:Tool use is widespread (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226272)

What's more impressive is our ability to design tools to attain a certain objective by using only our imagination (abstract thought) rather than the ability to pick up a rock from the vicinity to carve up a carcass. That's likely much more recent.

Actually, abstract thought might not be as recent or require as much evolutionary development as is often thought either. See the video embedded on this page [www.noob.us] where I'd say that a chimpanzee is clearly demonstrating abstract thought, not only working out what tool to use (water) but also how to transfer and apply it to solve a problem.

Re:Tool use is widespread (5, Insightful)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226444)

Actually, abstract thought might not be as recent or require as much evolutionary development as is often thought either.

While I agree that this is a possibility, I think it's rather funny that you're using the behavior of a modern-day chimp as evidence. You do realize that the chimp in that video has had just as much time and "evolutionary development" as we have, don't you?

Re:Tool use is widespread (2, Interesting)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227114)

+1 Insightful

Chimps might appear to be more primitive than humans, but they are just as evolutionarily distant from our common ancestor as we are. Looking to chimps for evidence of human-like behavior is interesting in that it shows behaviors like tool use are not unique to humans, but is not really indicative of the capabilities of our ancestors. There is nothing really "advanced" about humans, we have simply evolved different capabilities. Remember that pound for pound and average chimp is about 10x stronger than an average human.

We use our language and thinking skills to develop elaborate cooperative societies. Chimps do this on a smaller scale, but are more than able to beat a human to death in an individual confrontation. You can't really label on as more advanced than the other without understanding the the completely different contexts of our separate evolutions.

Re:Tool use is widespread (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227252)

You do realize that the chimp in that video has had just as much time and "evolutionary development" as we have, don't you?

lol, you think evolution is progress and that progress is getting smarter. You do realize how erroneous that is, don't you?

The chimp skull resembles those of our early ancestors. The only conclusion you can draw is that abstract thought is possible in a primate brain of a certain size.

Re:Tool use is widespread (1)

kill-1 (36256) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226292)

Well, some birds do design their own tools [youtube.com] (kind of) to attain a certain objective.

Re:Tool use is widespread (2, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226962)

Most things that are claimed to be uniquely human are just more sophisticated versions of what other intelligent animals can do [youtube.com] . As you point out birds (and chimps) have primative tool designing abilities. Birds and chimps also make elaborate nests [blogspot.com] by collecting and assembling parts, chimp nests [archaeology.org] are a kind of bed they build in a tree to sleep at night.

Re:Tool use is widespread (2, Interesting)

gorzek (647352) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227618)

And then you have species like dolphins, elephants, and pigs--all of which are very intelligent, they just lack the dextrous digits humans have so their ability to manipulate the environment is limited. Elephants are something of an exception due to their trunks, though--they can manipulate tools and perform complex tasks with them.

We just hit the evolutionary lottery, as it were: opposable thumbs, high intelligence, complex vocal communication, abstract thought, and self-awareness. Those traits can all be found in other species. We're just unique for having the combination and for not losing those traits in favor of others.

Re:Tool use is widespread (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226482)

Good link. I was sitting here thinking about all the tool using animals I've ever heard of. That page pretty much covers them. And, of course, primates pretty much lead the list. There was a story in the last couple years about a band of primates discovering a newer, better way to catch termites from a termite mound. I think they frayed the bit of straw or stick, giving the termites more area to grab hold of. The chimp got more termite chow for the same effort with the improved stick. The interesting bit was, they taught another band how to do the same thing.

Man may be the most prolific tool user, but he certainly isn't unique.

Re: Tool use is widespread (2, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226598)

Turns out we're not the only animal that uses tools so there's no reason why it would have appeared recently in human evolution.

The only surprise would be if the most recent common ancestor of ourselves and chimps *didn't* use tools, some six million years ago.

Good god... (4, Funny)

geogob (569250) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226140)

...then we've been using tool even before earth, the sky and whatnot were created! What a mind blowing revelation.

Re:Good god... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33226204)

Actually it makes you wonder, if the progress to get there took 800000 years, then what happened in the past 10000 is really incredible.

Re:Good god... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33226322)

Yup but I bet the plumber he was waiting for still hasnt shown up!

Re:Good god... (-1, Troll)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226554)

Sigh... Can't we ever have a slashdot story involving evolution with out bringing up creationism debates. Either as a lame old joke or a more serious commentary? You guys are so fixated on this debate and you only put more fuel to the fire to the creationist vocal minority.

Yes yes we know intelligent design isn't science.
Most religious people understand that first few chapters were in mediphore and written to make it a good story.

And there is a vocal group of people who are just as obsessed and are trying to block it's teaching.

We know that. Now can we get onto the science.

Re:Good god... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33227286)

Most religious people understand that first few chapters were in mediphore...

Most religious people (of the Judeo-Christian faith) believe that the first few chapters (and many later chapters) are metaphor. Just as most religious people (of the Judeo-Christian faith) once believed that the entire book was the absolute, unadulterated truth.

Re:Good god... (-1, Flamebait)

kryliss (72493) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227676)

Some still believe that it's unadulterated truth even though it's obvious that the bible is a book written by "man" for "man" to control "man"..... The whole purpose of the Catholic church is about control of the unwashed masses.

Re:Good god... (5, Interesting)

Evtim (1022085) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227328)

I disagree. What I see is that our civilization behaves like biology does not exists. All the numerous useful facts and predictions of evolution and ecology are constantly and often deliberately kept unintelligible to the general public. Biology is the queen of all sciences, hands down, and it is the most relevant to us as a species. Sure, physics, maths and inorganic chemistry are all very important and necessary foundation, but organic chemistry and biology are the real deal.

Almost nobody understands evolution properly. I am just back from lunch with my fantastically intelligent colleagues-physicists and they definitely did not know evolution. I mentioned to them that during the domestication of wolves as much as we selected them, they selected us too. They were baffled.

I said "Imagine that the wolves are coming closer to human settlement. The bravest wolves come the closest and try to pick some left overs. Eventually over time a mutually beneficial system emerges - we feed them, they help us hunting and guarding the settlement. We selected the wolves that are most-human friendly (least afraid of humans) and then encouraged their survival and procreation. All is well. Now, suppose that in the neighboring settlement a behavior "I hate/ I am afraid of wolves/dogs" occurs among the humans (genetically or socially determined or both). Well, this village will not have the benefit of guarding dogs against predators or other humans. They will suffer more casualties than the first village. Over time the difference becomes more and more significant until the "I hate/ I am afraid of dogs" behavior becomes negligibly small or vanishes. The net result - humans selected by wolves...even after this example which is quite clear IMO, I did not see the spark of enlightenment in the colleague's eyes. Even to this people - non religious, highly educated (from three different continents too), "selection" could only be a directed, conscious effort.

Here is a small story to illustrate:

The History of the Universe according to me (or why biology is the queen):

In the beginning it was physics - a set of forces and rules and looooong time. Everything that could happen, happened, so we got stars and most of the elements and all the possible inorganic components between those elements and all the possible products and processes of nuclear physics. That was the first of the "phase spaces" the Universe explored.

And among the elements there was carbon, which could chain with itself within certain limits of temperature and pressure. And it opened the second of the "phase spaces" - organic chemistry. And it was good, because the number of possible products and reactions was huge compared to inorganic chemistry and nuclear physics. Just the number of different chemical reactions between organic compounds in the "primal soup" of the Earth for a mere millions of years greatly exceeds the number of all atoms in the observable Universe. And since the time scales were still truly vast, anything that could happen, happened. And among the things that happened was the first immortal (but imperfect) replicator making copies of itself from components in its environment. And thus evolution began.

And once the so-called "nervous systems" of the living beings became so complex as to allow conciseness to emerge, an Observer of the Universe, the third "phase space" was accessible - the "phase space" of the mind, which is not even a material thing (as atoms) but "merely" a process carried out by a living, evolved beings.

And the complexity, intricacy and relevance (to us) of those phase spaces increases from the first to the second to the third. Thus biology, with its subsets like medicine, ecology, neurological sciences est. is the queen. And thus, it is no small matter at all when people are deliberately kept ignorant of it.

So, until society smartens up enough, we must challenge ignorance given half a chance. Our very survival is at stake!

Evolution (4, Funny)

onion2k (203094) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226152)

Nearly three and a half million years of humans using tools, and I can't even put up a shelf. If you want evidence that evolution isn't all it's cracked up to be, there it is.

Re:Evolution (4, Funny)

Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226168)

I can put up a shelf. But I can't butcher a carcass. Evolution in reverse eh?.

Re:Evolution (5, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226228)

I can put up a shelf. But I can't butcher a carcass. Evolution in reverse eh?.

The other day I was sitting in a release planning meeting, listing to a discussion about our version control system and related tooling. Suddenly I had this thought that we were all just a bunch of apes, manipulating abstractions of abstractions of tools ultimately designed to help us catch our dinner. Now I don't know how we do it at all. It all seems so unlikely.

Re:Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33226284)

The other day I was sitting in a release planning meeting, listing to a discussion about our version control system and related tooling. Suddenly I had this thought that we were all just a bunch of apes, manipulating abstractions of abstractions of tools ultimately designed to help us catch our dinner. Now I don't know how we do it at all. It all seems so unlikely.

But much more importantly: how did the release go?

Re:Evolution (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226344)

The other day I was sitting in a release planning meeting, listing to a discussion about our version control system and related tooling. Suddenly I had this thought that we were all just a bunch of apes, manipulating abstractions of abstractions of tools ultimately designed to help us catch our dinner. Now I don't know how we do it at all. It all seems so unlikely.

But much more importantly: how did the release go?

So-so

Re:Evolution (2, Funny)

bazorg (911295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226310)

I thought you were going to say: The other day I was sitting in a release planning meeting and all I could think about was butchering carcasses.

Re:Evolution (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226336)

I thought you were going to say: The other day I was sitting in a release planning meeting and all I could think about was butchering carcasses.

...of management. Yeah that too.

Re:Evolution (5, Insightful)

delire (809063) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226338)

Suddenly I had this thought that we were all just a bunch of apes, manipulating abstractions of abstractions of tools ultimately designed to help us catch our dinner.

The real abstraction you're talking about is post-industrial capitalism. Meat eaters often consider themselves somehow kin to the Great Hunter, that by eating a bloody steak they are somehow closer to the earth and it's mortal realities yet they couldn't be further from it. Rather, they cowardly pay another to kill a sick beast - stoned on antibiotics so that it can actually live and eat corn - on their behalf. I say that as someone that grew up on a farm and often ate what I killed with my own hands.

Unlike our hunter forebears, people caneat meat every day because of the abstraction of late capitalism. I encourage every meat eater to take the life of the thing they want to eat, at least once in their lives. Look at the beast in the eyes, take its life and then eat parts of its body. A highly valuable dietary - and somehow even spiritual - reality check.

Re:Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33226488)

Plus, the animals you get to kill with your own hands are often more tasty than "a sick beast - stoned on antibiotics so that it can actually live and eat corn".

Re:Evolution (4, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226514)

As a vegetarian I do it every day, I look that salad right into the eye and put it out of its misery.

Re:Evolution (5, Funny)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226536)

Maybe I didn't get the memo, but as far as I know salad shouldn't have an eye.

Re:Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33226622)

It's the eye of a healthy storm. And now that I've begrudgingly called vegetarians healthy, I can't help but want to go have a hamburger.

Re:Evolution (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226516)

Ha! Some of us have actually butchered our own meat. Deer, pig, and cows, not to mention loads of small game and fish. Butchering isn't a lost art out in the sticks.

And, yes, I like my beef medium rare to rare. I don't want the blood to actually dribble down my chin - but I most definitely want it JUICY!!

Re:Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33226534)

Look at the beast in the eyes, take its life and then eat parts of its body

This would surely make those McDonalds birthday parties *way* more exciting for the kids.

Re:Evolution (0, Offtopic)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226746)

Look at the beast in the eyes, take its life and then eat parts of its body

This would surely make those McDonalds birthday parties *way* more exciting for the kids.

Yes what we need is an animal which wants to be eaten. HHTG aside my wife is of Chinese origin and every time her family eat crab or lobster for dinner they insist on being photographed with the live animal 20 minutes before the main course is served.

I'm the squeamish one who asks for a "nice glass of water".

Re:Evolution (0, Offtopic)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226582)

O.K. It look like some one needs to stop reading the liberal media for a while. The post was so out of context that it wasn't at all useful. Chill man. You don't need to rant about problems in our food system just because some one uttered the word food.

Re:Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33226788)

crazy rednecks itt

Re:Evolution (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227074)

All I know is that bloody, sick, whatever - meat tastes good.

I've never killed a cow - but I regularly go fishing and then eat the fish... does that count?

Re:Evolution (0, Redundant)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226478)

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

Luckily for you, putting up a shelf isn't on the list.

Re:Evolution (1)

geogob (569250) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226898)

That would be true if evolution was a purely individual thing. But the evolution of social behavior, living in society where people specialized their skills to be more efficient and trade their skills against skills of other is also part of the evolution of mankind. That's why you'll always find someone to put up that tablet for you...

In the end, I feel that this social evolution is much more cracked up than the biological evolution.

Re:Evolution (3, Funny)

sorak (246725) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227304)

Maybe shelves have evolved a defense against being put up. Have you ever considered that?

I'm thinking of calling it "The IKEA Gene"

WELL (3, Insightful)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226188)

I think we all agree here that this is "just a theory". Despite all that MumboJumbo you call "Science".
It's only a theory. Like gravity and maths.

+6 flamebate on other sites, this sort of talk is you know...

Re:WELL (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227134)

only a theory. Like gravity and maths.

Mods, this should have been your clue.

+6 flamebate on other sites, this sort of talk is you know...

Did you mods even read this?

Re:WELL (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227698)

just a moment. the fact that people have been using tools for a very long time doesn't mean that they have to read the instructions before.

Fixed that for ya (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33226236)

we were using tools at minimum 800,000 years earlier than we previously had evidence for.

Pedantry aside, friggin wow... not just 3.4 million years of tool use, but being able to figure that out. The scientific concept of "prehistory" isn't even two hundred years old.

Nomenclature (1)

sammysheep (537812) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226240)

I have read that paleoanthropologists sometimes use the word "human" for a variety genera including Australopithecus, Paranthropus, Homo, et cetera.. While these are all hominids, what the average person would call "human" are referred to as "anatomically modern humans" or Homo sapiens sapiens by paleoanthropologists. I hope this nomenclature helps clear up any confusion.

Maybe if they were more honest (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226420)

We wouldn't have so many people who don't believe in evolution. When they try to group all these different human like species together, it makes evolution seem completely unscientific. Homosapiens are the only human species. Those other species are different species just like there are different species of fish, cats, and just like humans aren't rodents even though we share something like 95% of our genes with them.

Re:Maybe if they were more honest (2, Insightful)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227166)

Maybe they're not being dishonest; maybe they're being mindful of the fact that setting up precise boundaries between these different species is not as simple as you think. What precisely makes for a different species? The human-like species would have been very closely related genetically, and in some cases may have been able to interbreed naturally. So are they different species, or sub-species of the same species? Don't be fooled by the simple nomenclature system into thinking that species taxonomy is a simple thing.

Re:Maybe if they were more honest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33227354)

Homosapiens are the only human species. Those other species are different species

So you're implying god was a hacker?

"I wonder what happends if I pull this strain of DNA, cut out this.. add some of this.. boot it up with some obscure distro.. Oh, that is NICE. He now can hold a cute tool and thinks it's intelligence. Hah, now I'm bored."

Bah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33226260)

That's lunacy! I can offer alternate descriptions of every one of those articles which is just as ingenious as yours.

Signs of lawyers among early man? ;-) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33226332)

they do not believe that they were in fact hunters, more likely scavenging the remains left behind by large predators

Re:Signs of lawyers among early man? ;-) (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227244)

they do not believe that they were in fact hunters, more likely scavenging the remains left behind by large predators

It's highly likely but we can't be sure until they find some primitive C&D orders carved on stone.

Depressing (1)

Cockatrice_hunter (1777856) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226342)

Is it just me or is this a bit depressing. Before it was look at all we've accomplished in the past 2.5 million years, now it has become: it's taken 3.4 million years to get to where we are?

Wrong questions? (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226382)

A number of animals are capable of taking an everyday object (e.g a stone, stick or bone) lying around and using it to achieve an objective.

The real questions are:
a) how many animals are capable of taking an everyday object, improving it for the purpose they have in mind and then using it to achieve an objective?
b) at what point did our ancestors pick up this ability?

Re:Wrong questions? (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226496)

For your first question, not just us. Crows have demonstrated the ability to bend a piece of wire to make a hook from it, and then use it as a hook. Also, according to another slashdot poster can figure out dragging frozen food under an idling car's tail pipe.

Re:Wrong questions? (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226754)

I didn't expect zero to be the answer to the first part of the question; I'd expect some birds and primates to be positives.

Did the author sleep through Anthro 101? (4, Informative)

Theatetus (521747) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226404)

Even non-hominids use implements like rocks and sticks. Tools are specifically fabricated or altered: what's important about tools is not that they are used but that they are made. Unless we find the rocks they used and see whether they were flaked by the hominids or just found already sharp, we can't call these "tools".

Re:Did the author sleep through Anthro 101? (0)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226416)

I'm guessing you meant Anthro 1, because 101 signifies an upper division course. It's like a quantum leap being interpreted as the largest possible advance when it actually means the smallest possible.

Re:Did the author sleep through Anthro 101? (1)

Theatetus (521747) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226454)

We clearly went to different schools. In my case, EE 101 was a freshman survey course introducing students to engineering. And, yes, the "quantum leap" thing bugs the hell out of me too. That and dismissing doomsayers as "Cassandras".

Re:Did the author sleep through Anthro 101? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226542)

Must vary. I went to a fairly decent public university in the U.S. and freshman courses were all 100, 101, etc.

Re:Did the author sleep through Anthro 101? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227156)

I always assumed "quantum leap" meant a distinct, significant jump as opposed to referring to the size per se. Next time I hear it used I'll have to ask what they mean.

And as the others say, in the U.S., colleges typically reserve 1xx for the intro courses.

Humans existed 800,000 years ago? (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226412)

I was under the impression that we were maybe 300,000-400,000 years old as a species. How do they go back 800,000 to millions of years?

Re:Humans existed 800,000 years ago? (3, Informative)

dingen (958134) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226602)

Homo Sapiens are around for about 500,000 years, but what they're talking about in this article are our ancestors of human-like primates, of which some species are tens of millions of years old.

Re:Humans existed 800,000 years ago? (1, Interesting)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226742)

Off Amazon, order a book called the Hidden History of the Human Race (The Condensed Edition of Forbidden Archeology) . They have been discovering tool marks on bones older than they should be (think dinosaur) for many, many years . Some people even lost their jobs over it. Why? It seems that before Darwin, they went by the evidence and didn't need to make anything "fit" a timeline. After Darwin was firmly rooted, evidence was covered up, because it didn't fit the timeline. Some people who stood by their work, were just fired or blacklisted. There is case after case in the book.

Now it seems that technology has made it hard to cover up. That's good.

Re:Humans existed 800,000 years ago? (2, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227076)

sharpens Occam's Razor

Or, perhaps, they misinterpreted toothmarks left by serrated predator teeth as toolmarks, chose to stick with their hypothesis in the light of an overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, thereby planting themselves firmly in the crackpot camp, and THEN lost their jobs?

Re:Humans existed 800,000 years ago? (4, Interesting)

tarpitcod (822436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227168)

The age that humans essentially similar to ourselves walked this planet is constantly pushed back. We now discover tool use nearly a million years earlier than previously thought. Yet for some it takes real temerity to suggest that possibly significant civilizations may have existed earlier in history. The best places to look would actually be in high orbit, the Moon or the Lagrange points between the Sun and Earth. The Moon is particularly good, due to lack of weather (We saw how the dust storms affected the Mars rovers!) If we were all (99%) killed by a viral epidemic next year and civilization fell, it would be extremely hard to find significant traces of us just 30K years later. I still think that survivors, even if they fell back to 'bash things with stones' tool use might re-achieve our level of civilization. Likewise, since I'll give future humans that chance, I'd entertain that maybe we aren't the first who had a significant globe-spanning civilization and something went wrong. Either of these possibilities really makes the argument that Hawking has been espousing much stronger. If we aren't the only civilization then we are rare. If we aren't then civilizations must rise and fall fairly frequently. Either way we need to get humanity established elsewhere, and someone should be thinking hard about what to send back to earth /leave here to help the lower level of civilization re-climb the ladder.

Re:Humans existed 800,000 years ago? (2, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227204)

Concluding that a mark on a dinosaur bone was from butchering would be suspect without evidence of the tools themselves in the same strata, would it not?

Re:Humans existed 800,000 years ago? (1)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227240)

They had experts in other fields examine the bones and concluded they were tool marks.

The author makes few claims himself, it is all testimony from real scientist. That's one of the things that impressed me about the book.

I see truth that doesn't fit gets modded down on /. as well. :)

Re:Humans existed 800,000 years ago? (2, Insightful)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227716)

"real scientist"? I know them. they're the guys with intelligent design and "LHC is gonna kill us all", right?

Re:Humans existed 800,000 years ago? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227980)

They had experts in other fields examine the bones and concluded they were tool marks.

Perhaps those experts need to be examined by experts? Concluding that something was made by a tool that has not been shown to exist until 100 million years or so up the strata is a bit of a stretch. I'd bet other "experts" would conclude that the same bone had been scraped against rocks when stepped on, etc.

Or was the author implying that there was a tool-using dinosaur? Seems like a stretch, but there are tool-wielding birds... so anything is possible.

Re:Humans existed 800,000 years ago? (2, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227262)

Is it just my imagination or has there been a sharp increase over the last decade in the number of people willing to swallow anything that comes in the form of an anti-science conspiracy theory.

Re:Humans existed 800,000 years ago? (1)

tarpitcod (822436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33227450)

Thinking that maybe other humanoids had a prior civilization, and we aren't unique is hardly anti-science. It's accepting the idea that if someone with essentially similar brain capacity and physical abilities may be able to climb the tool use ladder. I will grant you that it's like a conspiracy theory, but so was the theory that the earth orbited the sun a few hundred yeas ago.

GM = General Mastodon (1, Funny)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226448)

...cut marks on the bones of an impala-sized creature...

Is that supposed to be our car analogy for this article?

Pushed back again? (5, Funny)

OglinTatas (710589) | more than 3 years ago | (#33226524)

Tool use by humans pushed back again, and by 800,000 years? I can't wait that long. I have to fix my brakes this weekend.

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