Stone tools are useful. Not only for their original manufacturers when it comes to cutting and skinned meat. But also for anthropologists who follow the migration and evolution of mankind.
So when the weirdly built blade settles out of the way, which occurs much earlier than ever before, they sit and notice.
According to a study by the Australian University of Wollongong, published in the scientific journal nature , a cluster of paleolithic instruments found in a cave in southwest China, is between 80,000 and 170,000 years old.
This does not fit.
The established understanding of how humanity migrates from Africa into Europe and beyond Asia does not fit this timeframe.
They are too early.
They show production techniques observed only in the methods of Neanderthal and Homo Sapiens, which at that time were half the world.
We have long known several different types of people living side by side. Over the last decades, a long-lost species, called Denisovans after the Siberian cave where the remains were discovered, has begun to emerge.
So who – or what – did these strange Chinese artifacts?
We do not know.
There are no bones recovered from the site.
But the find has many consequences.
"Our new discovery … suggests that they could be invented locally without input from elsewhere, or come from a much earlier cultural transmission or human migration," the authors of the study The conversation, "These Chinese artifacts provide another proof that changes the way we think about the origin and spread of new stone tools technologies."
Several such findings upset the established perceptions of human migration.
LIST OF STONES
Stone tools reveal a lot to their creators. It's not just a matter of striking rocks together, while several sharp scales are falling – well, at least not by the first inventors.
With the development of human minds and the complexity with which they form and assemble their tools.
Archaeologists have identified five different "regimes" for building stone tools. Each of them represents a significant advantage over those who came earlier – and a more complex construction process.
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According to the authors of the study, the headquarters in the middle of this stone technological evolution is a controversial group called "Model III (Levallois)." It includes percussion-useful flakes of pre-prepared stone core.
"They are the result of a set of very specific steps for cutting a piece of stone to create tools of a similar size suitable for shaping for different purposes," the authors write.
They represent a big step forward in terms of efficiency – both in terms of effort and waste reduction.
But where does this style come from?
"One of these debates is whether Mode III tools have been invented in one place and then distributed or invented independently in several different locations."
The oldest group of Levallois stones are found in Africa, dating back 300,000 years ago. And the previous evidence shows that this style of instrumentation has arrived only in China from 30,000 to 40,000 years.
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But the analysis of 2273 artifacts recovered from the Guanyindong Cave in Guizhou province revealed 45 examples of Levalo style.
"We found Layer III tools in layers from about 170,000 to about 80,000 years ago, which puts them long before the IV-mode tools (blades) and around the time when Levallois were the main tools used in Europe and Africa."
The answer could be tied to newly emerging evidence of a lost tribe of people who may have been well established in Asia before modern Homo Sapiens arrived.
And maybe they were innovators.
The latest findings suggest a third group that lives isolated from Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens. But besides the remains of finger and some scattered artifacts in Siberia and some unusual hybrid skulls in China, almost nothing is known about them.
They are called Denisovani.
"It was believed that Levallois cores came to China relatively recently with modern people," says Washington University co-author Ben Mourik. "Our work reveals the complexity and adaptability of people there, which is equivalent elsewhere in the world, showing the diversity of human experience."
His co-authors, Bo Lee and Hu Yue of Wollongong University, take this step forward.
"One of the reasons why it is so hard to find evidence of technology in China so far is that the number of people in East Asia during the Paleolithic may be much smaller than in the West," they argue.
"We do not know what kind of guy did the Guanyindong tools because we did not find bones, whoever they are, they have skills similar to those who live in the West at the same time." They seem to have uncovered Levallois' strategy in China , while people use it extensively in Europe and Africa. "
The authors say the best way to find out is to go back and carry out extensive new excavations. Much of their research was completed on the basis of museum records and samples based on those made there in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as a comparison of fresh soil samples recovered from the site.
"Our work shows that the ancient people there are just as capable of innovation as anywhere else." Technological innovations in East Asia can be satisfied and do not always come from the West, Marwick says.