Tool Use Discoveries in Anthropology

Tool Use Discoveries in Anthropology - Long-tailed Macaque
Long-tailed Macaque in Thailand

Scientific articles about tool use as an indicator of pre-human activity in the distant past may have to be rewritten. New discoveries show that the “tools” some anthropologists claimed were used by ancient hominids may be stone flakes accidentally created by monkeys.

Researchers have observed long-tailed macaques in Thailand using rocks to pound open palm nuts. When they use rocks containing flint or quartz, they create flakes or shards. Those fragments are very similar to some sharp-edge stone fragments researchers previously thought were created by ancient humans in East Africa.

Scientists have used what they call intentionally produced sharp-edged stones as proof of the evolutionary development of emerging humans. They used the “flake technology” to infer the degree of cognitive ability, including knowing how to select the types of rocks to give specific properties for making tools. Despite this “new” research, experienced field workers had previously observed monkeys inadvertently producing stone flakes and sometimes even using them as grooming tools.

Today’s anthropologists have moved beyond tool use to determine whether a specimen was human. They can sometimes use DNA found in the remains of the individuals. DNA studies have led to the understanding that all humans are related and that the gene pool has been thoroughly mixed over the ages.

The biblical reference is very simple. The name “Eve” means the mother of all living humans (Genesis 3:20). “Adam” means “of the ground,” referring to the fact that our physical bodies consist of elements found in the earth. “In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).

What sets humans apart is not tool use but our spiritual makeup. All humans are made in the image of God. We are all one physically, and the Bible calls us to become one spiritually. (See Galatians 3:28 and Ephesians 2:14.)

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: Science News April 8, 2023, page 13, and the journal Science Advances.