Israeli archaeologists shed light on tool use of early humans

Tel Aviv University team makes revolutionary discovery illustrating prehistoric animal butchering practices

An elephant rib found in Revadim, Israel. (Photo credit: Ran Barkai)
An elephant rib found in Revadim, Israel. (Photo credit: Ran Barkai)

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have found animal remains and residue on ancient tools, shedding light on prehistoric methods of animal butchery.

The team analyzed cut marks left on elephant bones found in the Revadim Quarry, west of Jerusalem, to contend that the animals were butchered by prehistoric hand-axes and scrapers used by early humans who once inhabited the region.

Employing advanced research methods, the team examined the surfaces of tools found at the site to determine their function and search for organic material that might offer the researchers additional clues.

Through their analysis, the Tel Aviv University team was able to identify traces of plant and animal matter that provided evidence of the uses of prehistoric flint tools for the first time.

The tools found at the site date from the Late Acheulian period (1.7 million – 100,000 years ago) and were discovered by Professor Ran Barkai, Natasha Solodenko and Andrea Zupanchich from Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures. The research was done in collaboration with Dr. Ofer Marder of Beersheba’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and two Italian academics.

“There are three parts to this puzzle: the expansion of the human brain, the shift to meat consumption, and the ability to develop sophisticated technology to meet the new biological demands,” Professor Barkai was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

“The invention of stone technology was a major breakthrough in human evolution,” Barkai said.

The ability to develop primitive tools in order to harvest animal meat represented a major breakthrough for human advancement.

“At the Revadim quarry we found butchered animal remains, including an elephant rib bone which had been neatly cut by a stone tool, alongside flint hand-axes and scrapers still retaining animal fat,” added Barkai.

“It became clear from further analyses that butchering and carcass processing indeed took place at this site.”

The research paper asserted the tools were likely used to make hides, an undoubtedly difficult endeavor for prehistoric humans using basic flint tools. The team postulated that both hand-axes and scrapers were utilized on different parts and during different stages of the hide-making process, giving the field insight into early tool specialization.

“The knowledge of how to make these tools was precious, and must have been passed along from generation to generation, because these tools were reproduced the same way across great territorial expanses and over hundreds of thousands of years,” said Barkai.

“In this thousand-piece puzzle called archaeology, sometimes we find pieces that connect other pieces together… This is what we have found with the stone tools and animal bones,” Barkai said.

Most Popular
read more: