episode #142 prehistoric crafts

frost on a wood board

The oldest stone tools date to around 3.3 million years ago. The simple tools were found at Lake Turkana, Kenya from 2012 – 2014 by archaeologists from a number of institutions. It is thought the tools were made by Australopithecus afarensis or Kenyanthropus platyops, based on the age of the tools which was established by relative dating of the soil layers. Previously it was thought only species of the genus Homo produced flaked stone tools, however this discovery demonstrates some of our earliest ancestors had the ability to manipulate natural resources around them.

The oldest musical instrument was found at Hohle Fels in southern Germany in 2008, the five-holed flute from the radius bone of a griffon vulture (found with ivory fragments of other flutes) is the oldest clear instrument. Dating from the Aurignacian techno-complex, this type of artefact demonstrates the broadening of raw materials consistently used by humans (Neanderthals appear to have only used bone occasionally) and exploration of art and expression through different sounds or music. Both Hohle Fels, and the nearby site of Geissenklösterle have yielded huge amounts of archaeology from the time when the first anatomically modern humans were moving westwards from the Balkans.

The oldest known art dates to 73,000 years ago… a flake of silcrete (a mineral made of cemented sand and fine gravel) was drawn on around 73,000 years ago using a piece of red ochre. The drawing is simple: a series of lines, some of which intersect one another. This is the earliest evidence of modern humans creating lines or using a colouring agent on an object or wall, but its meaning remains unclear. The find comes from Blombos Cave in South Africa, around 185 miles of Cape Town.

The oldest ceramic object from the Stone Age is approximately 30,000 years old… it is a figurine of a female form, and like others of a similar style it has been labelled as a “venus figure”. The figure comes from the Upper Palaeolithic site of Dolní Věstonice in the Czech Republic where it was discovered in 1925 (broken in two pieces) next to a hearth (fire place). The site has provided a wealth of archaeological material from the hunters who lived there and built shelters from mammoth bones. The 11cm tall figurine was made from one piece of wet clay (instead of several being sculpted together) which had small fragments of burned bone mixed in. What these venus figures represent is difficult to answer, they may have been fertility symbols, good luck charms, toys or a 3D image of a loved one.

The oldest wheel so far found dates to the very end of the Stone Age… dating to 5150 years ago during the transition between the Stone and Bronze Ages (the Chalcolithic), a pile-dwelling  settlement of houses on stilts in Slovenia yielded what was first thought to be an unremarkable wood plank in 2002. On further excavation, the plank turned out to be an ash wood wheel measuring 70cm wide and 5cm thick. A further surprise was the presence of the intact axle for the wheel, made of oak and measuring 120cm. The site is located about 20km southeast from the capital: Ljubljana, in an area known as the “Ljubljana Marshes”. The wheel and axle are believed to have come from a single-axle push cart on which the wheel and axle rotated together (as the wheel has a square socketed).

Just for interest…Holes were cut or scraped into the skulls of other living people! the act of Trepanning is to bore a hole into a skull to relieve pressure. The earliest evidence of this practice on humans dates to around 7000-8000 from near Kiev (Ukraine). The patient was a male who showed complete healing after the practice and lived on into his 50s. A later Neolithic cemetery in France provided evidence that 40 out of 120 human skulls discovered showed evidence of the practice, many with evidence of healing and bone regrowth. Trepanning is still used today in extreme cases of bleeding on the brain, though it is covered with a patch or plate. It was only in remote parts of the world where the practice continued to follow its prehistoric roots (without modern surgical methods or patching) up until the early 1900s. [Ancient Craft]


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Groove Armada: Hands of Time

Jazztronik: For a Long Time After

Ramsey Lewis: Whisper Zone

GoGo Penguin:

Boards of Canada: Come to Dust

Hans Zimmer: We Built our Own World