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Java Man's First Tools
Science Magazine ^ | 3-26-2006 | Richard Stone

Posted on 04/21/2006 11:14:50 AM PDT by blam

Java Man's First Tools

Richard Stone

INDO-PACIFIC PREHISTORY ASSOCIATION CONGRESS, 20-26 MARCH 2006, MANILA

About 1.7 million years ago, a leggy human ancestor, Homo erectus, began prowling the steamy swamps and uplands of Java. That much is known from the bones of more than 100 individuals dug up on the Indonesian island since 1891.
But the culture of early "Java Man" has been a mystery: No artifacts older than 1 million years had been found--until now. At the meeting, archaeologist Harry Widianto of the National Research Centre of Archaeology in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, wowed colleagues with slides showing stone tools found in sediments that he says were laid down 1.2 million years ago and could be as old as 1.6 million years.
The find, at a famous hominid site called Sangiran in the Solo Basin of Central Java, "opens up a whole new window into the lifeways of Java Man," says paleoanthropologist Russell L. Ciochon of the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Although hominids apparently evolved in Africa, Indonesia is a Garden of Eden in its own right, with a wealth of H. erectus fossils.
The startling discovery 2 years ago of "hobbits"--the diminutive H. floresiensis of Flores Island--added a controversial new hominid to the Indonesian menagerie.

In 1998, Widianto found stone flakes in the 800,000-year-old Grenzbank layer at Sangiran, whose well-plumbed sediments reach back 2 million years.
Then in September 2004, his team struck gold in a layer dated by extrapolation from the rocks around it to 1.2 million years ago.
Over 2 months, they unearthed 220 flakes--several centimeters long, primarily made of chalcedony, and ranging in color from beige to blood red--in a 3-by-3-meter section of sand deposited by an ancient river.

The find, not yet published, could be even more spectacular than Widianto realizes, says Ciochon.
His team, which also works at Sangiran, has used ultraprecise argon-argon radiometric methods to date the volcanic strata overlying the levels excavated by Widianto to 1.58 million to 1.51 million years ago--making the flakes at least 1.6 million years old.
If the flakes were undisturbed, Ciochon says, they would represent "some of the earliest evidence of the human manufacture of stone artifacts outside of Africa." Their antiquity would match that of the oldest flakes found in China, at Majuangou, dated to 1.66 million years ago and also made of chert.

Indonesian tool kit. Homo erectus used small, finely worked tools on Java. CREDIT: RETNO HANDINI

But not everyone is convinced. Although the chert flakes are abraded, possibly by water, a few limestone flakes are remarkably sharp.
"The difference in preservation condition could indicate that we are dealing with secondary deposition," or flakes of different ages mixed together, cautions archaeologist Susan Keates of Oxford University in the U.K., who was at the talk. Others disagree.
"I feel their excavation is reliable, because the deposits are thick and undisturbed," says Hisao Baba, curator of anthropology at Japan's National Science Museum and the University of Tokyo, whose team has also uncovered H. erectus fossils and flakes on Java.

The Sangiran flakes "are fundamentally different"--smaller--than the stone choppers made by H. erectus in Africa, says Ciochon.
The evidence, he argues, suggests that Java Man had to range far for small deposits of good flint or chert and so created small, finely worked tools in contrast to the larger tools found in Africa.
Considering the scarcity of raw materials on Java, Ciochon says, it's "a remarkably fine technology."

Widianto will resume excavations in June. "I will be going deeper and deeper, older and older," he promises.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: crevolist; first; godsgravesglyphs; java; javaman; mans; multiregionalism; tools
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1 posted on 04/21/2006 11:14:52 AM PDT by blam
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To: SunkenCiv

GGG Ping.


2 posted on 04/21/2006 11:15:35 AM PDT by blam
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To: blam

Oh, I thought Java Man's first tool was:

javac HelloWorldApp.java


:)


3 posted on 04/21/2006 11:17:56 AM PDT by No.6 (www.fourthfightergroup.com)
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To: blam

Amazing to think humans have been around for well over a million years and this is how far we have come. Seems to me we should have colonies in space by now.


4 posted on 04/21/2006 11:19:21 AM PDT by mlc9852
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To: No.6

No, no, it was an alpha version of the Java Toolkit.


5 posted on 04/21/2006 11:19:34 AM PDT by PetroniusMaximus
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To: blam

Which one crushed the coffee beans? I'm also interested in how Java man filtered that sumantran blend.


6 posted on 04/21/2006 11:21:21 AM PDT by theDentist (Qwerty ergo typo : I type, therefore I misspelll.)
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To: blam

Oh my God! My back yard is full of million year old tools, I'm going to be RICH!!!


7 posted on 04/21/2006 11:21:26 AM PDT by Abathar (Proudly catching hell for posting without reading since 2004)
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To: blam

How did they make coffee with rocks?


8 posted on 04/21/2006 11:21:37 AM PDT by P-40 (http://www.590klbj.com/forum/index.php?referrerid=1854)
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To: No.6

I thought it was IBM VisualAge.


9 posted on 04/21/2006 11:22:29 AM PDT by dfwgator (Florida Gators - 2006 NCAA Men's Basketball Champions)
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To: blam

10 posted on 04/21/2006 11:23:41 AM PDT by PBRSTREETGANG
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To: blam

"Java Man's First Tools" were probably a mug and a squirt of sheep 1/2 & 1/2.


11 posted on 04/21/2006 11:24:13 AM PDT by Frenetic
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To: PBRSTREETGANG
Too much Java man

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12 posted on 04/21/2006 11:24:31 AM PDT by cripplecreek (Never a minigun handy when you need one.)
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To: mlc9852
Amazing to think humans have been around for well over a million years and this is how far we have come.

While this may be the earliest finding of H. erectus tools, other ancestors of ours were using simple Olduwan-style tools as far back as 2.4 million years ago. But it wasn't until 50,000 years ago or so that we really had the explosion in technology, art, etc. that allowed humans to take over the world. What's amazing isn't that that explosion didn't happen earlier, but that it happened at all.

13 posted on 04/21/2006 11:24:38 AM PDT by Alter Kaker ("Whatever tears one sheds, in the end one always blows one's nose." - Heine)
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To: mlc9852
Amazing to think humans have been around for well over a million years and this is how far we have come....

Don't be disappointed. These things take time. Look how far we have come from floating in the primordial soup - that will cheer you up!

14 posted on 04/21/2006 11:26:05 AM PDT by KMJames
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To: Alter Kaker

"What's amazing isn't that that explosion didn't happen earlier, but that it happened at all."

Why is that amazing?


15 posted on 04/21/2006 11:27:37 AM PDT by mlc9852
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To: Alter Kaker
...But it wasn't until 50,000 years ago or so that we really had the explosion in technology, art, etc. that allowed humans to take over the world....

What do you characterize as the "explosion" about 50,000 years ago?

16 posted on 04/21/2006 11:29:26 AM PDT by KMJames
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To: mlc9852

Amazing to think that people don't recognize our ability for rapid development as evidence *against* a 'million year' history for humanity.

Yes, it would be amazing and we should have colonies in space by now... if we had really been around for a million years.

Doink.


17 posted on 04/21/2006 11:29:42 AM PDT by GourmetDan
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To: KMJames

But why did it take so long?


18 posted on 04/21/2006 11:34:00 AM PDT by mlc9852
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To: blam; FairOpinion; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 24Karet; 3AngelaD; ...
Thanks Blam.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list. Thanks.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
"Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list or GGG weekly digest
-- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

19 posted on 04/21/2006 11:34:03 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: mlc9852

"Amazing to think humans have been around for well over a million years and this is how far we have come. Seems to me we should have colonies in space by now."



In time, in time, remember we only discovered sex in the 1960s for example, don't be so impatient.



20 posted on 04/21/2006 11:39:25 AM PDT by ansel12
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