Setting our species apart, the way in which humans throughout the ages have made and used tools has lead scientists nowadays to discover more and more about them, and how they may well have influenced evolution.
Dating back many millions of years, the making and using of tools was frequently seen among Chimpanzees, the closest living relatives to our species. With the ability to make their own weapons for hunting and tools for foraging, the evidence suggests that humans may well have made and owned wooden tools ever since our human and chimp ancestors diverged, around 4 millions of years ago.
What about stone tools?
Dating back around 2.6 million years to a place called Gona, Ethiopia, the first known tools were called ‘Oldowan,’ and weren’t just chunks of rock no bigger than a hand for pounding things, but also more intricate stone tools created by a technique called knapping; the striking of a hard stone such as quartz or flint, against another rock to create an edge.
For millions of years to come, this was as far as tools came, and to be frank, it wasn’t much more sophisticated than an ape or chimpanzees use of stones for hammering at things.
What came next?
Fast forward more than a million years, and crudely shaped hand axes and cleavers can now be found, replacing the primitive tools of previous millennia and called the Acheulean. This is also when Homo Erectus first makes an appearance.
Additionally, it’s at around this time when Homo Erectus begin to take their tools with them, instead of simply discarding them following use. Now using primitive technologies to advance their use of tools, this development may even be more cognitively significant than their first use of tools made from stone.
Homo erectus as carnivores
Evolving to make the attaining and consuming of meat more successful, Homo erectus is now demonstrating increased brain size, and an increase in body size, too. Interestingly, their gut size reduced, too, meaning that any resources which would usually have gone towards digestion, can be rerouted to the brain. The consumption of meat at this point in time, also helps to support their superior brain growth. That said, early forms of stone tools weren’t only used for processing the carcasses of animals, and may well have been used for other day-to-day activities and purposes, too.
Changes in social evolution
With the evolution of tools, come some significant changes in social evolution, such as the sharing of food sources, presumably to aid other, weaker members of society.
Tools of today
While those passionate about DIY or who are involved in industries that use power tools, might baulk at the idea of tackling a construction project with a simple tool made out of stone or wood, it certainly makes you thankful for our progression throughout the ages, and our ability to advance our brains and create tools for solving a variety of problems.
Such a fascinating and insightful subject is one difficult to explore in such a limited way, but it’s interesting when we look at the Industrial tools of today, to think of their primitive beginnings and who or what, may have made and used them.