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

chopped down 14 bamboo stalks representing five species. When cut, the stalks, both small and large in diameter, totaled more than 65 meters in length. The stone tools performed remarkably well for that purpose, the authors write. That was especially true, they said, considering the tools were wielded by two modern people who were inexperienced with chopping bamboo, researchers Eren and Li. But Eren sometimes found himself scrambling up trees to release felled bamboo wedged in branches.

After numerous trials, the researchers developed a simple "bamboo knife reduction sequence" that could produce 20 sharp, durable bamboo knives in about five hours. Using pork purchased from a local market, the researchers write, they found that the knives easily cut meat, but not hide.

In other findings, the authors write that with a simple stone unifacial chopper, Bar-Yosef was able in 30 minutes to easily make a sharp spear that would have been capable of killing an animal. Also, using the replicated stone tools they were able to produce strips of bamboo thin enough for weaving baskets. "For some items, like baskets, bamboo might have been an ideal raw material," Eren said.

"But one is left to wonder, at least for butchery tasks, why a prehistoric person would go to the trouble of producing a bamboo knife when a stone flake would certainly do the trick," the authors write.

"The so-called bamboo hypothesis, to explain the virtual absence of complex prehistoric stone tool technologies in eastern and southeastern Asia, has been often cited but always remained somewhat ambiguous," said Parth Chauhan. "This unprecedented experimental study by Ofer Bar-Yosef, Metin Eren and colleagues represents a first step in the right direction, to confront a long-standing assumption about early human technological adaptations."


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Contact: Margaret Allen
mallen@smu.edu
214-768-7664
Southern Methodist University
Source:Eurekalert  

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