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Scientists make bamboo tools to test theory explaining East Asia's Stone Age tool scarcity
Date:4/8/2011

The long-held theory that early human ancestors in East Asia crafted their tools from bamboo and wood is much more complicated than originally conceived, according to a new study.

Research until now has failed to address a fundamental question: Is it even possible to make complex bamboo tools with simple stone tools?

Now an experimental archaeological study in which a modern-day flint knapper replicated the crafting of bamboo knives confirms that it is indeed possible to make a variety of bamboo tools with the simplest stone tools.

However, rather than confirming the long-held "bamboo hypothesis," the new research shows there's more to the theory, says archaeologist Metin I. Eren, the expert knapper who crafted the tools for the study.

Bamboo knives were efficiently crafted and able to cut meat, but not hide

The researchers found that crudely knapped stone choppers made from round rock "cobbles" performed remarkably well for chopping down bamboo. In addition, bamboo knives were efficiently crafted with stone tools. While the knives would easily cut meat, they weren't effective at cutting animal hides, however, which could have discouraged their use during the Stone Age, say the authors. Some knives made from a softer bamboo species entirely failed to produce and hold a sharp edge.

"The 'bamboo hypothesis' has been around for quite awhile, but was always represented simply, as if all bamboo species, and bamboo tool-making were equal," says Eren, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "Our research does not debunk the idea that prehistoric people could have made and used bamboo implements, but instead suggests that upon arriving in East and Southeast Asia they probably did not suddenly start churning out all of their tools on bamboo raw materials either."

The findings appear online in the article "Were Bamboo Tools Made in Prehistoric Southeast Asia? A
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Contact: Margaret Allen
mallen@smu.edu
214-768-7664
Southern Methodist University
Source:Eurekalert  

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