Human Evolution - Use of Tools

Use of Tools

See also: Hunting hypothesis

The use of tools has been interpreted as a sign of intelligence, and it has been theorized that tool use may have stimulated certain aspects of human evolution, especially the continued expansion of the human brain. Paleontology has yet to explain the expansion of this organ over millions of years despite being extremely demanding in terms of energy consumption. The brain of a modern human consumes about 20 watts (400 kilocalories per day), a fifth of body's total energy consumption. Increased tool use would allow hunting for energy-rich meat products, and would enable processing more energy-rich plant products. Researchers have suggested that early hominids were thus under evolutionary pressure to increase their capacity to create and use tools.

Precisely when early humans started to use tools is difficult to determine, because the more primitive these tools are (for example, sharp-edged stones) the more difficult it is to decide whether they are natural objects or human artifacts. There is some evidence that the australopithecines (4 Ma) may have used broken bones as tools, but this is debated.

It should be noted that many species make and use tools, but it is the human genus that dominates the areas of making and using more complex tools. The oldest known tools are the "Oldowan stone tools" from Ethiopia, 2.5-2.6 million years old, which predates the earliest known "Homo" species. There is no known evidence that any "Homo" specimens appeared by 2.5 Ma. A Homo fossil was found near some Oldowan tools, and its age was noted at 2.3 million years old, suggesting that maybe the Homo species did indeed create and use these tools. It is a possibility but does not yet represent solid evidence. Bernard Wood noted that "Paranthropus" co-existed with the early Homo species in the area of the "Oldowan Industrial Complex" over roughly the same span of time. Although there is no direct evidence which identifies Paranthropus as the tool makers, their anatomy lends to indirect evidence of their capabilities in this area. Most paleoanthropologists agree that the early "Homo" species were indeed responsible for most of the Oldowan tools found. They argue that when most of the Oldowan tools were found in association with human fossils, Homo was always present, but Paranthropus was not.

In 1994 Randall Susman used the anatomy of opposable thumbs as the basis for his argument that both the Homo and Paranthropus species were toolmakers. He compared bones and muscles of human and chimpanzee thumbs, finding that humans have 3 muscles which are lacking in chimpanzees. Humans also have thicker metacarpals with broader heads, allowing more precise grasping than the chimpanzee hand can perform. Susman posited that modern anatomy of the human thumb is an evolutionary response to the requirements associated with making and handling tools and that both species were indeed toolmakers.

Read more about this topic:  Human Evolution

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Famous quotes containing the word tools:

    No man is born into the world, whose work
    Is not born with him; there is always work,
    And tools to work withal, for those who will:
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    James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)