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How Smart Were Cave-Men?

on November 6, 2010
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ScienceNOW: “Stone Age Toolmakers Surprisingly SophisticatedOur “cave-men” kin: just how smart were they?

Despite a steady stream of news in the last few decades showing that our troglodyte “ancestors” were brighter than popular culture often indicates, scientists sometimes seem surprised to find more evidence that Neanderthals and other historic humans were highly intelligent. In this case, the news comes from a cave in South Africa, where researchers led by Vincent Mourre of the University of Toulouse–Le Mirail have investigated 127 spear tips—stones that have been made triangular, presumably for use at the end of spears (or knives). The stones were found in sediments dated at 75,000 years old.

These stones are silcrete, which is harder to work with.

What engrossed the researchers is the manner in which many of the stones appear to have been made pointed, appropriate for being fitted atop a spear, for instance. The rocks show evidence of a technique known as pressure flaking that produces sharp, symmetrical, durable stones—and that requires precision as well as knowledge of the technique. But the stones are said to be 55,000 years older than the oldest known examples of pressure flaking. And not only that, but the oldest examples were flint rocks, which is more easily manipulated; these stones are silcrete, which is harder to work with.

Interestingly, other scientists think pressure flaking may be an even more “ancient” practice. University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign anthropologist Stanley Ambrose suspects the practice might have been around for 100,000 years, while University of Cape Town archaeologist David Braun stretches the date even farther back.

Given that we reject the controversial, old-age dating methods these scientists base their work on, creationists can come to two conclusions about historical uses of pressure flaking. First, insofar as the dates do indicate that the stones were fashioned by humans several thousand years ago, it confirms that even these “ancient” humans were crafty and knowledgeable. Second, insofar as evolutionists find evidence of pressure flaking farther and farther back in time than their conjectured history of humanity allows, it reveals the flaws in old-age dating methods.

As further evidence of flaws in old-age dating methods, consider a ScienceDaily report on news we covered two weeks back. As we reported, radiocarbon dating of an archaeological site in France contradicted normal archaeological interpretations of the data; two old-age dating methods were at direct odds with one another. As the ScienceDaily report explains, the archaeological interpretation has been thrown out, with a vague, unknown “physical disturbance” blamed for upsetting archaeological layers. This reminds us that old-Earthers are just as dogmatic as they claim young-Earthers to be, ready to rescue their basic presuppositions from the evidence when required.


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