The History and Evolution of Stone Tools

The History and Evolution of Stone Tools

Do you still have a wristwatch or clock (which works with many small wheels and is super precise)?

Probably not! An era has come to an end. (Tower Clocks were invented in 1270-1300 in the area northern Italy to southern Germany) and the characteristic of a whole nation was based on the final product: ”Swiss precision”.

The first stone tools were made and used about 3.3 million years ago by related ancestor species in Africa. They were fairly crude in the beginning, probably used for defence or attack by knocking, slicing or stabbing a predator or victim. Once stone tools were used, meals became bigger than small rabbits or Guinea fowl. And probably the group/herd size of hominids as well.

Please bear in mind that your ancestors didn’t have watches, but still had thoughts and emotions just like you! (Mostly the church bells “regulated” the day.) Just think of Shakespear. “Romeo and Juliet” is a love story which we all can relate to. Generally, we tend to think of stone tool users as being primitive half apes, which is totally incorrect: They were people like us!

Humanity moved through various phases: Hunter gatherer groups were limited in size by the amount of food available. If some members went hungry, they would split off and form a new group and find a new area where the “apple trees supplied sufficient apples for everyone”. Smaller groups mean reduced safety though. Once humankind progressed to controlling the amount of food by developing agriculture, settlements were developed. But those people had emotions and thoughts just like modern man. The same happened during the industrial revolution and of course right now with all the digital changes; just think of the watch that you have today… Does it have many little wheels?

The stone tools were developed into a fine art over 3 .3 million years, until their era slowly came to an end at about 1200 BC (only 3200 years ago) when they started to be replaced by iron pieces. Bearing in mind that this didn’t happen all over the globe at the same time, just like the industrial age didn’t reach Africa, South America and Asia until roughly 200 years after it was started in the “1st world”. Compare the speed of that change with the speed at which digitalisation changes are occurring currently.

By the time stone tools were starting to be replaced by iron tools, they were used not only used for self-defence or hunting but also for many other purposes, such as stitching and sewing leather clothes and shoes –with fine stone tools which were not much bigger than a needle (but just sharp)!

With it came a multitude of other knowledge, such as about geology; where to find the most suitable rocks to use; literally a mining industry was developed.

Mr. Smith or Herr Schmidt, became a common name in many languages, describing someone who made iron tools. What would have been the name of the stone tool maker? Will …

I arranged a private full day lesson with Will. He took an elliptical roundish flint rock of about 1.5 kg and within a few minutes created a fantastic 18 cm knife for me! All the while turning the rock and assessing it from different angles. In his mind he had already seen that knife “hidden” inside that roundish flint “rock”. Painters do two-dimensional work. Sculptors do 3D work! But they chisel gently. Knappers (stone tool makers) break the stone or rock along specific lines with one well aimed knock at the exact force required! (Knapping means to break with a blow.) And if the rock is not a high quality (Will calls them “valuable”), that “slice” of rock, might separate along a different line!

After Will had finished my marvellous stone knife (in a few minutes whilst chatting), it was my turn. I tried to make a knife. And that was when I realised how amazing Will’s skill was. He worked out where I had to knock, with what size rock or slightly softer antlers and how hard I had to knock. He would mark the spot and then mark with a pen what piece would be “chiselled” off. Even though I was reasonably successful, it soon became clear to me, the years of experience and skill which Will had. It reminded me of those Swiss watchmakers. He has done this since childhood, having learnt the skill from watching his father (about whom he talks very dearly). And then he mentioned, on the side whilst “working”, that other knappers visit him for “master classes”. I must say that Will is a superb communicator and teacher. He is very patient and successfully manages to encourage and inspire. And yes, I cannot make knives (or other tools as precise as his, but one of my flakes was so sharp that I cut myself when simply holding it and literally had to “lick my wound”. Bearing in mind that the profession Doctor is a fairly “modern job” and that there were no doctors for most of the history of mankind; an infected wound meant certain death…

All this happens in a stone age atmosphere because Will created the surroundings to bring this to life.  One immerses into the Stone Age! At this point the Lord of Euston should be mentioned. (By the way, one of Lord Euston’s ancestors helped fund the development of train lines & stations and yes, that is the name of one of the main train stations in London. Obviously, this kind of thinking runs in that amazing DNA!) The Lord of Euston is patronizing Will’s amazing project by providing an amazing piece of land where Will has put up his stone age settlement.

Will has a display of the history and development of stone tools (all 3.3 million years) in his “ancient” hut built around a fire and many stone age items (leather clothes etc.). You get a top-class description and can touch and hold them! From the first sharp club to the final specialised needles, there is a superb time travel over 3.3 million years (like the movie “Back to the Future”), better than most museums, because you can touch and literally get the feel.

So, if you want to have an unforgettable experience with a stone age man: This is it. He lives like in the Stone Age for several days of the week and has a following of over 700000 on the internet!

Enjoy this special moment in your life!

The history and evolution of Stone Tools