An international team of researchers from Japan, Hong Kong and Ethiopia discovered a rare bone ax, which, in their opinion, was made by one of the human ancestors about 1.4 million years ago.
The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is briefly covered by Phys.org.
A unique artifact was discovered in Ethiopia during excavations at a place called Konso Gardula. Earlier, in the same area, scientists discovered several axes, which were made by representatives of the human species Homo erectus. All of these tools were made of stone.
However, in this case, the weapon turned out to be made of bone. This is just the second Homo erectus bone ax known to science. Analysis showed that its age is about 1.4 million years. Laboratory research helped determine that the artifact was made from a hippopotamus femur.
The ax was oval in shape and was approximately 13 centimeters long. Only one edge turned out to be sharp. Probably, the ancient master used another tool for sharpening, presumably a stone one.
By its construction, the bone ax is similar to the stone axes found here earlier. However, their manufacturing techniques were probably slightly different. Stone tools were made in a rather primitive way. It was enough for the master to split the stone with one strong and sharp blow. The result was a sharp cutting edge. If it was not possible to do this with one blow, a second blow followed, followed, if necessary, again and again.
In the case of the bone ax, apparently, the master had to work longer, because the bone cannot be sharpened with one or two blows. It required an effort, it was monotonous work.
By the way, the analysis carried out with the help of a microscope showed that the bone ax was used more than once for its intended purpose. Scientists have found characteristic chips and scratches on its surface. Researchers suggest that the tool was used to butcher the carcasses of hunting animals.
Its design also indicates that Homo erectus were quite adept at making tools. And this, in turn, is a sign that they were smart enough and developed.
Researchers, however, have not yet been able to explain why the ancient master decided to use the hippopotamus bone instead of a much harder and more reliable stone.