Something that has been fundamental to the evolution of human beings is the development of technology, understood as the set of instruments and procedures that help us to satisfy our needs and solve problems.
Such development has taken place throughout the history of our species, in fact, our sophisticated technology is part of what sets us apart from all other species. Not only has it served us to adapt to the needs presented by the environment, but to adapt that environment to our own needs.
More specifically, the passage from Homo habilis to Homo sapiens was marked by the use of minerals, which is known as the lithic industry . This is also the oldest industry developed by the human species.
What is the stone industry?
The lithic industry is the production of tools based on rock and various minerals , which had a special boom in the period known as “prehistory”. Specifically in the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods.
Some examples of these tools are the weapons that were used for hunting or gathering, and also the materials needed to make them, among others. This is an industry whose development was quite slow and at the same time important for our evolution: it has been present for more than two million years.
7 types of stone industry: from Homo habilis to Homo sapiens
As expected, the needs and available resources changed constantly between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic. Thus, there were different types of stone industry.
Currently, seven main types are recognized: Olduvayense, Achelense, Musteriense, Auriñaciense, Gravetiense, Solutrense and Magaleniense.
The olduvayan type industry, also known as mode 1 industry , appeared approximately 2.5 million years ago, probably with the emergence of the first representatives of the human race, the Homo .
The production of tools occurred firstly on the basis of carved rocks, whose shape could be in different ways and was achieved by hitting one or both sides of the rock. On the other hand, these tools had a very low degree of elaboration, since they were only intended to sharpen stones by one of their ends, without putting much care in the resulting form. By making irregular marks created in a rudimentary way, there was not much control over the shape obtained. This is why is recognized as the oldest stone carving industry .
Olduvayan lithic production was based on taking advantage of the closest raw material, without having to plan much about where to get it and how to handle it. The main objective was to obtain cutting edges and small pieces . This type of technology was mainly used by Homo habilis.
The Achelense mode, or mode 2, refers to the elaboration and use of flat and thin stone fragments (known as “lasca”), which were carved on both sides, obtaining biface axes . These slabs are more standardised than in the previous period, following a specific order of blows and turns in the handling of the material with which they are worked.
The Achelense type stone industry corresponds to the Lower Palaeolithic, approximately 1.6 million years ago, and the techniques for handling the rock gave it the shape of small axes. On the other hand, these instruments were not specialised in specific tasks, and served the general purpose of cutting soft materials and scraping skins , at the price of obtaining neither optimum results nor very high productivity compared to what could be achieved with other types of stone industry that were to come.
The Mode 3, or Mousterian, stone industry appeared at the beginning of the Upper Pleistocene, about 125,000 years ago, and disappeared about 30,000 years ago. It is associated with the Neanderthals , who, starting with the Achellenic industry originating in Africa, perfected it in the regions of Eurasia where they appeared as a differentiated species with a greater cranial capacity than their ancestors. On the other hand, the first representatives of the sapiens also started from it when they settled in Eurasia.
At this stage flint was mainly used, a hard stone made of silica that can create sharp edges when broken . Likewise, during this period that corresponds to the Middle Palaeolithic, the stones were used especially for hunting, but specialized tools already began to be created, planning in their elaboration a particular purpose. Specifically, some sixty specialised tools have been preserved, such as punches, axes, knives, etc.
The tools were smaller in size than in previous periods and had more points, so they are closer to the shape of a knife. Within this period we also recognise the intermediate “Chatelperroniense” stage, closer to the Upper Palaeolithic.
This period, along with the three that follow, are usually grouped within the same period: the Upper Palaeolithic (the stage that goes from 40,000 years ago to 12,000 years ago), and are associated with a common mode of production characterized by the use of bone, horn or ivory to make long and very sharp points (impossible to make from materials as brittle as stones), and also for making the first artistic representations with the same materials. Thanks to the possibility of creating needles, it is possible to manufacture sophisticated clothing with which to move around totally glacial ecosystems, something that other representatives of the Homo genus could not do for a long time.
On the other hand, in this type of lithic industry the use of the burin is generalised, which is an instrument developed by Homo sapiens and is considered the first machine tool: an object created to manufacture other working instruments.
Specifically, the Auriñaciense is characterized by large sheets, like large carved slabs. Other materials used were flint, quartz and quartzite.
Along with the previous period, the Gravetian is associated with Homo sapiens. Similarly, the use of bone and ivory for the manufacture of long points was predominant. It is characterized by the presence of the first decorated bones and also by the development of clay firing methods .
Following on from the previous stage, this stage is characterised by the development of rock heating methods. By these same methods, the carving and shape of the tool is modified. They have more aesthetic touches, similar to an arrow. Flint, quartz and various crystals are also used, such as obsidian .
In this latter period, the tools are even thinner but also larger, shaped like an azagaya tip (small throwing lance), although they also have triangular shapes. Their elaborate products were used not only for hunting, but also as combat weapons and as decorations. Many well-preserved remains have been found in southwestern Europe.