A very old tool

Here’s my hand holding a 130,000 year old flint spearhead created by a Neanderthal living near what is now Krapina, Croatia. It’s a beautiful point, and amazing to think that this was chipped by a hominin so long ago.

I learned a ton today at the Croatia Natural History Museum, as we had a special visit to the Neanderthal collection and got a close-up view of the stunning bones and artifacts. This required special permission, and I am most grateful to the curator, Dr. Davorka Radovčić, for taking the time to show us the specimens and give us detailed explanations.

I will do a whole post on our visit, with lots of cool photos, but here’s a teaser:

Okay, one more. This is a very special skull (all bone, no reconstruction), but I’ll tell you about it later:

 

26 Comments

  1. Nicholas K.
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I’ve held artifacts nearly 2 million years old in Kenya. It provides a wonderful feeling of human cognitive connection spanning time.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted October 16, 2018 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      You lucky bastard!
      Was that the Turkana Boy?

      • Nicholas K.
        Posted October 16, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        It was not (that particular fossil). Although I did work up in Lake Turkana region, where artifacts of such age can be found.

        • Eric Grobler
          Posted October 16, 2018 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

          You were an anthropology student?

      • John Conoboy
        Posted October 16, 2018 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

        That is my great, great, great…great, grand uncle Tur you are talking about. Spelling of the family name has changed some over time.

  2. W.Benson
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Did a shiver go up your spine?

    • Blue
      Posted October 16, 2018 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, W. Benson, t r u l y ! THAT !

      Such a HUGE shiver ‘ld soooo go up mine !
      HOLDING onto such a deal !

      W o w z a, Dr Coyne !

      Blue

      • rickflick
        Posted October 16, 2018 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        Hang on to your hat Blue. 😎

  3. Eric Grobler
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    “I will do a whole post on our visit, with lots of cool photos, but here’s a teaser”

    Thank you, I am very interested in human evolution in period from Erectus to Devonian/Neanderthal.
    So much have changed since my mediocre anthropology course in the early 80’s.

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  5. Nicholas K.
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I teach an introductory course on human evolution. We actually have a modest teaching collection of genuine stone tools — some even from Olduvai Gorge. There are so many stone tools found at some sites — thousands in some cases. Many were given out as teaching collections back in the day (they are, after all broken rocks). Today, they tend to make plastic casts.

    I always do a demonstration on stone tool manufacture in class (badly), and hand around the crude flakes. Then, I pass around the real things — the students react with such excited surprise when they realize they are holding a tool that is older than all history. I sometime worry they will drop them in their excitement (we are always very careful and make sure they are handled and stored properly). I believe many museums also have teaching or demo collections that they are eager to show off if asked. They are usually the real thing.

  6. Mark R.
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Interesting green stone. Do you know what it is? Perhaps rhyolite or quartzite.

    • Posted October 16, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      I was told it was flint.

      • Mark R.
        Posted October 16, 2018 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

        Aha, thanks. A form of chert I think.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted October 18, 2018 at 1:12 am | Permalink

          Flint is the archetypal stone for the making of primitive tools, I think.

          Flints are actually rounded pebbles of chert (quartz), formed in situ in chalk or limestone beds. Flint pebbles are often used intact as filler materials with mortar in the walls of buildings in flint-rich areas e.g. Thaxted church

          It’s noticeable that the wall edges are in sawn ?limestone?, the wall facings are flint, presumably because it was cheaper, (as were a few patches of broken roofing tiles built into the walls).

          But anyway, the classic flint tools are made when one of these flint pebbles is broken open to expose the glassy chert within.

          cr

  7. Christopher
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    I have inherited a modest collection of stone tools found by my great uncle, and have found a few myself but none of great age and all from anatomically modern humans but to hold a Neanderthal tool…what an amazing opportunity you have had! I do so envy you!

  8. rickflick
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    I’d tremble holding that. I’d be so afraid I’d drop it, I probably would.

  9. Michael Fisher
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Davorka Radovčić AKA “Dr. Bones”

  10. Merilee
    Posted October 16, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  11. Posted October 16, 2018 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Cooool!! I once held a real sabre tooth tiger (Smilodon) skull. An awesome experience, but this is awesomer.

  12. Posted October 17, 2018 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    I had the honour of being taught how to flint knapp by David Price-Williams when I was a kid (my mum was studying with him at the time). I still do it from time to time. It’s curiously satisfying. Some people practice using old bottles but I would caution against it–the shards can be nasty.

  13. Mike
    Posted October 17, 2018 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    What a wonderful artifact,and beautifully made. Imagine what it would feel like to be the first to find it, and have that immediate connection to the Neanderthal who lost it 130,000 yrs ago. And it will be as lethal now as it was then.

  14. Posted October 18, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Anyone read _The Inheritors_? So much for Golding’s romanticism (which does not detract from some of the important points of the novel).


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