One of the least understood elements that has perplexed researchers for years concerns certain rare spheroid objects in limestone which were found in an archaeological site inhabited millions of years ago by early humans.
For many years, some researchers thought that the artifacts were made by accident or without a specific purpose, perhaps as leftovers from the making of other tools. Now a new study has found that these objects were created intentionally by early humans.
Calcareous spheroids are one of the most misunderstood elements left behind by our early hominids. Credit: Muller et al.
So far they have been about 600 stone spheroids foundestimated to be around 1.4 million years old, discovered at the archaeological site of Ubeidiya, accompanying the usual stone tools such as hand axes.
Ubeidiya, in the north of present-day Israel, about 3 km south of the Sea of Galilee, in the Jordan Valleyis an early Pleistocene archaeological site that preserves traces of one of the first migrations of Homo erectus out of Africa.
Analysis of 1.4 million year old spheres
A team of scientists from Hebrew University of Jerusalemin collaboration with researchers from Tel Hai College and Rovira i Virgili University, examined 150 spheroids in an attempt to solve this puzzle.
The researchers developed a advanced 3D analysis softwarecapable of measuring angles on the surface of a spheroid, calculating the level of curvature of the surface, and determining the center of mass of the object.
The researchers measured the surface angle, center of mass, and surface curvature of each of their artifacts. Credit: Muller et al., R. Soc. OpenSci.
By precisely measuring the angles of the marks found on the surface of the spheroids, they reconstructed the process by which the artisans had made them.
According to the research authors, there is no doubt that the spheroids were made with intention. For example, each of them has a large “primary surface” surrounded by smaller worked planeswhich suggests that they were made by first removing a large flake of stone and then carefully trimming the edges of the newly flattened area.
Designed for Purpose
The study rules out that the stone balls may have been formed due to natural processes. If that were the case, the researchers say, then their texture would be much smoother, like that of stones found in rivers, which tend to be very smooth due to water erosion, even though their shapes are almost never truly spherical.
(a) Criteria (color codes) from which primary surfaces were identified. Note the large scar in the center (black), which has high surface concavity (blue), serves as a platform for many flake detachments (red), and deviates significantly from a sphere. Credit: Muller et al.
On the contrary, the stones found in Ubeidiya have rough surfaces (as you would expect from a hand made item) and some of them are almost perfect spheres. Something only a toolmaker would be able to create.
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The results point to the extraordinary ability of hominids 1.4 million years ago conceptualize a sphere in one’s mind and shape the stones to match that vision.
All this suggests that these early tool makers They already knew how to appreciate both symmetry and beauty. A fascinating testament to the planning, foresight and manual skill of our ancestors.
The study was published in the scientific journal Royal Society Open Science.
References: Science Alert.
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