Cold Hard Facts About the Ice Age – WIF Current Events

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 Stone Cold Facts

About

the Ice Age

Even though it’s hard to see it, our planet is in a continuous state of change. Continents constantly shift and clash with each other. Volcanoes erupt, glaciers expand and recede, and life has to keep up with all of it. Throughout its existence, Earth has at various times been covered by miles-high polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers, in periods that lasted for millions of years. Generally characterized by a long-term cold climate and ice as far as the eye can see, these Ice Ages will be the topic of discussion in today’s list.

10. What is an Ice Age?

 

Believe it or not, defining an Ice Age is not as straightforward as some may think. Sure, we can characterize it as a period in which global temperatures were much lower than they are today, and where both hemispheres are covered in huge sheets of ice that extend for thousands of miles towards the Equator. The problem with this definition, however, is that it analyzes any given Ice Age from today’s perspective, and doesn’t actually take the entire planetary history into account. Who’s to say, then, that we’re not actually living in a cooler period than the overall average? In which case, we would actually be in an Ice Age right now. Well, some scientists, who’ve dedicated their lives to the study of these sorts of phenomena,can say. And yes, we’re actually living in an Ice Age, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

A better description of an ice age would be that it’s a long stretch of time in which both the atmosphere and the planet’s surface have a low temperature, resulting in the presence of polar ice sheets and mountainous glaciers. These can last for several million years, during which time there are also periods of glaciation, characterized by ice sheet and glacier expansion over the face of the planet, and interglacial periods, where we would have an interval of several thousand years of warmer temperatures and receding ice. So, in other words, what we know as “the last Ice Age” is, in fact, one such glaciation stage, part of the larger Pleistocene Ice Age, and we’re currently in an interglacial period known as the Holocene, which began some 11,700 years ago.

9. What causes an Ice Age?

 

At first glance, an Ice Age would seem to be like some sort of global warming in reverse. But while this is true to a certain extent, there are several other factors that can initiate and contribute to one. It’s important to note that the study of Ice Ages is not that old, nor is our understanding complete. Nevertheless, there is some scientific consensus on several factors that do contribute to the onset of an Ice Age. One obvious element is the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. There is consistent evidence that the concentration of these gases in the air rises and falls with the retreat and advance of ice sheets. But some argue that these gases don’t necessarily kick start every Ice Age, and only influence their severity.

Another key factor that plays a part here are tectonic plates. Geological records point to a correlation between the position of the continents and the onset of an Ice Age. This means that, in certain positions, continents can obstruct the so-called Oceanic Conveyor Belt, a global-scale system of currents that bring cold water from the poles down to the Equator and vice versa. Continents can also sit right on top of a pole, as Antarctica does today, or can make a polar body of water become completely or semi-landlocked, similar to the Arctic Ocean. Both of these favor ice formation. Continents can also bulk up around the Equator, blocking the oceanic current – leading to an Ice Age. This happened during the Cryogenian period when the supercontinent Rodinia covered most of the Equator. Some specialists go even as far as saying that the Himalayas played a major role in the the current Ice Age. They say that after these mountains began forming some 70 million years ago, they increased the amount of global rainfall, which in turn led to a steady decrease of CO2 from the air.

Lastly, we have the Earth’s orbits. These also partially account for the glacial and interglacial periods within any given Ice Age. Known as the Milankovitch Cycles, the Earth experiences a series of periodic changes while circumnavigating the Sun. The first of these cycles is Earth’s eccentricity, which is characterized by the shape of our planet’s orbit around the Sun. Every 100,000 years or so, Earth’s orbit becomes more or less elliptical, meaning that it will receive more or less of the Sun’s rays. The second of these cycles is the axial tilt of the planet, which changes by several degrees every 41,000 years, on average. This tilt accounts for the Earth’s seasons and the difference in solar radiation between the poles and the equator. Thirdly, we have Earth’s precession, which translates to a wobble as Earth spins on its axis. This happens roughly every 23,000 years, and will cause winter in the Northern Hemisphere to happen when Earth is farthest away from the Sun, and summer when it’s closest. When this happens, the difference in severity between seasons will be greater than it is today. Besides these major factors, we also have the occasional lack of solar spots, large meteor impacts, huge volcanic eruptions, or nuclear wars, among other things, that can potentially lead to an Ice Age.

8. Why do they last so long?

 

We know that Ice Ages usually last for millions of years at a time. The reasons behind this can be explained through a phenomenon known as albedo. This is the reflectivity of the Earth’s surface when it comes to the Sun’s shortwave radiation. In other words, the more our planet is covered in white ice and snow, the more of the Sun’s radiation is reflected back into space, and the colder it gets. This leads to more ice and more reflectivity – in a positive feedback cycle that lasts for millions of years. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important for Greenland’s ice to remain where it is. Because if it doesn’t, the island’s reflectivity will decrease, adding to the overall global temperature increase.

Nevertheless, Ice Ages do eventually come to an end, and so do their glacial periods. As the air becomes colder, it can no longer hold as much moisture as it did before, leading, in turn, to less snowfall and the eventual impossibility for the ice to expand or even replenish itself. This starts a negative feedback cycle that marks the beginning of an interglacial period. By this logic, a theory was proposed back in 1956 which hypothesized that an ice-free Arctic Ocean would actually cause more snowfall at higher latitudes, above and below the Arctic Circle. This snow may eventually be in such great quantities that it will not melt during the summer months, increasing Earth’s albedo and reducing the overall temperature. In time, this will allow ice to form at lower altitudes and mid-latitudes – kick starting a glaciation event in the process.

7. But how do we really know Ice Ages even exist?

 

The reason people began thinking about Ice Ages in the first place was because of some large boulders located seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and with no explanation as to how they got there. The study of glaciation started during the mid-18th century, when Swiss engineer and geographer Pierre Martel began documenting the erratic dispersal of rock formations inside an Alpine valley, and downhill from a glacier. The locals told to him that those huge boulders were pushed there by the glacier that once extended much farther down the mountain. Over the decades, many other similar features were documented around the world, forming the basis for the theory of Ice Ages. Since then, other forms of evidence have been taken into account. The geological features, among which are the previously mentioned rock formations, also contain moraines, carved valleys such as fjords, glacial lakes, and various other forms of land scarring. The problem with these, however, is that they’re extremely hard to date, and successive glaciations can distort, or even completely erase the previous geological formations.

6. The Big Ice Ages

 

At the moment, scientists are confident that there were five major Ice Ages throughout Earth’s long history. The first of them, known as the Huronian glaciation, happened roughly 2.4 billion years ago and lasted for about 300 million years, and is considered the longest. The Cryogenian Ice Age happened around 720 million years ago, and lasted until 630 million years ago. This one is considered to be the most severe. The third massive glaciation took place about 450 million years ago and lasted some 30 million years. It’s known as the Andean-Saharan Ice Age, and caused the second largest mass extinction in Earth’s history, after the so-called Great Dying. Lasting for 100 million years, the Karoo Ice Age happened between 360 and 260 million years ago, and was caused by the appearance of land plants, whose remains we now use as fossil fuels.

Lastly, we have the Pleistocene Ice Age, also known as the Pliocene-Quaternary glaciation. It began roughly 2.58 million years ago and has since gone through several glacial and interglacial periods, roughly 40,000 to 100,000 years apart. Over the past 250,000 years, however, the climate changed more frequently and abruptly, with the previous interglacial period being interrupted by numerous cold spells that lasted for several centuries at a time. The current interglacial that began roughly 11,000 years ago is atypical because of the relatively stable climate it has had up until this point. It’s somewhat safe to say that humans may have not been able to discover agriculture and develop its current level of civilization if it wasn’t for this unusual period of temperature stability.

5. Witchcraft

“Wait, what?” We know that’s what you’re thinking when you see that header in this list. But let us explain…

For a period of several centuries, beginning sometime around 1300 and ending around 1850, the world went through a period known as the Little Ice Age. Several factors worked together to lower the overall temperature, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, allowing many alpine glaciers to expand, rivers to freeze over, and crops to fail. Several villages in Switzerland were completely destroyed by the encroaching glaciers during the mid-17th century, and in 1622, even the southern section of the Bosporus Strait, around Istanbul, had completely frozen over. Things got worse in 1645 and lasted for the following 75 years, in a period known to scientists today as the Maunder Minimum.

During that time, the Sun was going through a period with little to no sunspots. These sunspots are regions on the surface of the Sun that are much lower in temperature. They are caused by concentrations in our star’s magnetic field flux. By themselves, these spots would probably be able of lower Earth’s temperature, but they’re also surrounded by some intensely-bright regions, known as faculae. These have a significantly higher radiation output that far outweighs the reduction caused by sunspots. So, a spot-free Sun actually has a lower radiation output than usual. During the 17th century, it’s estimated that the Sun dimmed by 0.2 percent – something which partially accounted for this Little Ice Age. Over 17 volcanic eruptions took place across the world during that time, dimming the sun’s rays even further.

Economic adversity brought on by this several-century-long cold spell had an incredible psychological impact on people. Frequent crop failures and firewood shortages led many from Salem, Massachusetts to suffer from a severe case of mass hysteria. In the winter of 1692, twenty people – fourteen of which were women – were hung on accusations that they were witches and to blame for everyone’s hardships. Five other people – two children included – later died in prison for the same thing. Because of unfavorable weather, some people in places like Africa occasionally accuse each other of being witches, even to this day. In other places, however, gay people are the scapegoats for the effects of global warming.

4. Snowball Earth

Earth’s first Ice Age was also its longest. As we mentioned earlier, it lasted a whopping 300 million years. Known as the Huronian Glaciation, this incredibly long and freezing epoch happened some 2.4 billion years ago, in a time when only single-celled organisms roamed the Earth. The landscape would have looked completely different than today, even before the ice took over. A series of events, however, happened that would eventually lead to an apocalyptic event of global proportions, engulfing much of the planet in a thick sheet of ice. Life prior to the Huronian Glaciation was dominated by anaerobic organisms that didn’t require oxygen to live. Oxygen was, in fact, poisonous to them, and extremely rare in the air at the time, making up just 0.02% of the atmospheric composition. But at some point, a different form of life evolved – the Cyanobacteria.

This tiny bacterium was the first being to ever make use of photosynthesis as a means of generating its food. A byproduct of this process is oxygen. As these tiny creatures thrived in the world’s oceans, they pumped millions upon millions of tons of oxygen, raising its concentration in the atmosphere to 21%, and almost driving the entire anaerobic life into extinction. This event is known as The Great Oxygenation Event. The air was also full of methane, and in contact with oxygen it turns into CO2 and water. Methane, however, is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, meaning that this transformation led to a drop in overall temperatures – which, in turn, began the Huronian Glaciation and the first mass extinction on Earth. The occasional volcano added further CO2 into the air, resulting in periodic interglacials.

3. Baked Alaska

 

If its name wasn’t clear enough, the Cryogenian Ice Age was the coldest period in Earth’s long history. It’s also the subject of much scientific controversy today. One topic of debate is whether the Earth was completely covered in ice, or a band of open water still remained around the equator – a Snowball, or Slushball Earth, as some call the two scenarios. The Cryogenian lasted from roughly 720 to 635 million years ago, and can be divided into two major glaciation events known as theSturtian (720 to 680 Ma) and the Marinoan (approximately 650 to 635 Ma). It’s important to note that there were no forms of multi-cellular life at that point, and some speculate that one such Snowball or Slushball Earth scenario was an early catalyst for their evolution during the so-called Cambrian explosion.

A particularly interesting study was published back in 2009, focusing on the Marinoan glaciation in particular. According to the analysis, Earth’s atmosphere was relatively warm, while its surface was covered in a thick layer of ice. This can only be possible if the planet was entirely, or almost entirely, covered in ice. They compared the phenomenon to a Baked Alaska dessert – where the ice cream doesn’t immediately melt when it’s placed in the oven. It turns out that the atmosphere had plenty of greenhouse gases in its composition, but that didn’t stop or mediate the Ice Age as we would expect. These gasses were present in such great quantities because of increased volcanic activity due to the breakup of the Rodinia supercontinent. This long volcanism is also thought to have helped start the Ice Age.

The science team warned us, however, that something similar could happen again if the atmosphere reflected too much of the Sun’s rays back into space. One such process could be triggered by a massive volcanic eruption, nuclear war, or our future attempts at mitigating the effects of global warming by spraying the atmosphere with too many sulphate aerosols.

2. Flood Myths

 

When the glacial ice began to melt some 14,500 years ago, the water didn’t flow to the ocean in a uniform pattern across the globe. In some places like North America, a huge proglacial lake began to form. These lakes are a result of damming, either by a moraine or an ice wall. In 1,600 years’ time, Lake Agassizcovered an estimated area of 170,000 sq. miles – larger than any lake currently in existence. It formed over parts of North Dakota, Minnesota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. When the dam finally gave in, fresh water flooded into the Arctic Ocean via the Mackenzie River Valley. This great influx of fresh water weakened the oceanic current by up to 30%, plunging the planet into a 1,200-year-long period of glaciation known as the Younger Dryas. This unfortunate turn of events is suspected to have killed off the Clovis culture and the North American megafauna. Records also show that this cold spell came to an abrupt end some 11,500 years ago, with temperatures in Greenland rising by 18 degrees F in a mere decade.

During the Younger Dryas, the glacial ice replenished itself, and when the planet began to warm up again, Lake Agassiz also reappeared. This time, however, it joined with an equally large lake, known as Ojibway. Shortly after their merger, a new drainage took place, but this time in the Hudson Bay. Another cold spell happened 8,200 years ago, known as the 8.2 kiloyear event. Though cold temperatures lasted for only 150 years, this incident was able to raise sea levels by 13 feet. Interestingly, historians were able to link the origins of many flood myths from around the world to this exact time period. This sudden rise in sea levels also caused the Mediterranean to punch its way through the Bosporus Strait and flood the Black Sea, which at the time was only a freshwater lake.

1. Martian Ice Age

Influenced by forces beyond our control, Ice Ages are naturally occurring events that aren’t confined to Earth alone. Like our own planet, Mars also goes through periodical changes in its orbit and axial tilt. But unlike Earth, where an Ice Age implies polar ice caps growing in size, Mars experiences a different process. Because its axial tilt is more pronounced than Earth’s, and the poles receive more sunlight, a Martian Ice Age means that polar ice caps actually recede, while glaciers at the mid-latitude expand. This process is reversed during interglacial periods.

For the past 370,000 years, Mars has been slowly coming out of its own ice age and entering an interglacial period. Scientists estimate that roughly 20,900 cubic miles of ice has been accumulating at the poles since, most of it being in the Northern Hemisphere. Computer models have also shown that Mars has the capacity of being totally enveloped in ice during a glaciation event. This research is in its early stages, however, and given the fact that we’re still a long way away from fully understanding Earth’s own Ice Ages, we can’t logically expect to know everything that’s happening on Mars. Nevertheless, this research can prove useful, given our future plans for the Red Planet. It also helps us a great deal here on Earth. “Mars serves as a simplified laboratory for testing climate models and scenarios, without oceans and biology, which we can then use to better understand Earth systems,” said planetary scientist Isaac Smith.


Cold Hard Facts About the Ice Age

– WIF Current Events

Ancient Tools and Toys – Real Old

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Oldest Known Objects

Made by Man

(and his Ancestors)

Whenever something incredibly ancient and incredibly cool turns up, there’s always someone on hand to shout that it’s evidence of aliens. Awesome as it would be to know ET was hanging out here in 10,000 B.C. (or whenever), the truth is both much simpler and much more interesting. See, you don’t need aliens to explain away intricate ancient objects. We humans have been capable of creating incredible stuff since before there were even humans.

 The following objects are all man made in the sense that ‘a proto-human intelligence was responsible for their creation’. But not all of them came from the mind of homo sapiens. Instead, some come courtesy of our distant ancestors, the thinking apes who preceded us and helped us on our journey. Think the prehistoric world is dull? Think again.

10. Ice Age “Batons” (Approx. 28,000 years old)

Yes, we know what you’re thinking. Something along the lines of: “Gee, these ice age batons sure look like a certain part of the male anatomy.” So before we go any further, let us just categorically state that, yes, these batons do indeed look like a bunch of comedy-sized wangs. And there’s a good reason for that. Wanna guess what it is? That’s right, far from being immature, you’ve hit on what these probably were. You’re looking at an image of a stone age sex toy.

Known euphemistically as ‘batons’, these proto-Ann Summers toys have been found in a number of Ice Age sites, no doubt leading to many awkward conversations among archeologists. The oldest of all is from Germany, specifically a place known as Hohle Fels Cave. Now, pay attention, because you’re gonna be hearing that name again and again in this article. Hohle Fels contains one of our best-preserved collections of Ice Age artifacts anywhere in the world. In 2003, it also turned out to contain the oldest baton yet found. The one you see above dates from around 28,000-30,000 B.C.

Just think about that, for a second. This ancient – ahem – toy is older than Stonehenge, Machu Picchu and yo momma combined. Not that it was all dirty. According to those who found it, the tool was also used for “knapping flints” (whatever the heck that is).

9. Animal Figurines (30,000-40,000 years old)

Sometimes, the world just likes to drop something incredible in our laps, presumably just for the fun of watching us collectively freak out. The ancient figurines found at Hohle Fels (that place again) are one of those somethings. Among the oldest sculptures ever found, they depict miniture birds, horses’ heads, and half-animal humans in jaw-dropping detail. Did we mention the detail? When they were made public, in late 2003, archeology expert Dr Anthony Sinclair declared: “They are as good as anything you will see thousands of years later – from 3-4,000 BC.” Suck it, Ancient Greece.

But even these works of genius have nothing on the oldest figurine we’ve yet found. Discovered in the same cave of wonders as the figurines was the Venus of Hohle Fels. A tiny carving of a woman, the Venus may also be the earliest extant work of erotica. The carving has improbably large breasts, a big backside, and exaggerated genitals. She’s also a lot fatter than we’re guessing any Ice Age human ever was, unless there’s a prehistoric McDonalds waiting to be found in Hohle Fels somewhere. This suggests she may have been a fantasy, an example of Ice Age man’s longing for a well-stacked, fleshy woman. Nice to see some things never change.

8. Neanderthal Cave Art (40,800 years ago)

Yeah, Neanderthals aren’t human. Well, get used to it. We’re gonna be leaving homo sapiens for good in a little while to go gallivanting around the world of Homo erectus and all his extinct pals. But first, let’s just pause and take a breather, and admire the view of one of the oldest expressions of abstract art ever found. Discovered in a Spanish cave in 2012, this image dates back a staggering 40,800 years in time.

Imagine the incredible amount of time that exists between you and Julius Caesar or Jesus Christ. Now times that unimaginable distance by ten. Now double it, and then give up and throw the whole concept of picturing this away, because you’re never gonna be able to really grasp just how stupidly long ago this was. Back then, ‘popping out for a bite’ meant stepping outside and being swallowed by a sabretooth tiger. It was a world so unimaginably different from ours as to be… well, unimaginable. Yet the not-quite-humans who inhabited this space still felt moved to do something uniquely human. They created art, using the only things they had: their hands and some plant pigment. And we think that’s just swell.

7. Ancient Flutes (42,000 years old)

The Aurignacian culture is the coolest thing you’ve probably never heard of. A bunch of early humans who started doing their thing in the Upper Paleolithic era, the Aurignacians mark the point where art and music and specialized tools began to emerge. So, yeah, pretty much everything you take for granted today started here. At one point, scientists thought this period of intense change started no earlier than 40,000 years ago. Then someone stumbled across a 42,000 year old bone flute in yetanother German cave and the dates had to be revised upwards.

 If the thought of an ancient flute doesn’t send a chill down your spine, you may want to quickly double check and make sure you’re not in traction. These finds mean the earliest European humans were creating music from almost the moment they arrived on the continent. Just imagine. It’s dark. You’ve just come back from a long day’s woolly mammoth punching, or whatever the heck Stone Age man used to do. The only light in your cave is from the flickering of the fire. You sit around, staring into its shifting flames. And then, slowly, someone pulls out a flute and starts to play…

See what we mean? Magical. This is the dawn of human emotion we’re witnessing here, and we’ve still got well over a million years of history left to go.

6. Aterian Beads (110,000 years old)

Grotte des Pigeons is a cave in Eastern Morocco that for ages wanted nothing more than for people to forget it had such a stupid name. Then, sometime in the mid-20thCentury, some archeology guys came along and decided, hey, this looks like a pretty good spot to dig. So they dug and they dug and they dug until suddenly everyone was too busy exclaiming over all the crazy awesomeness in Grotte des Pigeons to concentrate on its stupid name. There were ashes and tools and carved rocks and all sorts of treasures. But the biggest treasure of all may have been the beads.

 Made of shells with perforated holes, some still with traces of red ochre on them, the beads were likely the earliest examples of jewelry we have. The researchers dated them to an impossibly-distant 110,000 years ago, a time when the wheel was a far-off dream, and the concept of agriculture was like witchcraft. Yet our ancestors were still making jewelry. Even in a world of unrelenting danger, bear attacks and lifespans of under 30 years, we still just wanted to look good. We can’t tell if that’s shameful or the coolest thing ever.

5. Bone Awls (200,000-400,000 years old)

OK, from here on in, the dates get vague and the periods of time involved become utterly incomprehensible. If you’re cool with that then stick with us, because this is also where we’re gonna find the coolest stuff. For this entry, that means bone awls. A feature of the Middle Stone Age (MSA), bone awls were little sharpened bits of bone, probably used for piercing holes in hide and making clothes. As such, they show our ancestors moving on from just wrapping themselves in the skin of a dead zebra to actually creating their own garments.

Like most of the stuff in the MSA, bone awls were likely invented in Africa and then taken to Europe along with the first early humans. Good job, too, as Europe back then was likely freezing. Honestly, we complain if we get stuck without heating for half a day during a mild winter. Imagine having to huddle round a fire in a cave for warmth AND design your own clothes using only sharpened bits of bone and the flesh of whatever you’d killed. There are residents of Jersey Shore who live more-fulfilling lives than that (kidding. No they don’t).

4. Projectile Points (200,000-400,000 years old)

This is where the MSA really hit its stride. Before early humans perfected projectile points, killing an animal meant charging at it with a kamikaze yell, waving an axe above your head and hoping it didn’t eat you (it frequently did). With the advent of sharpenedprojectile points, the equation changed dramatically. Now you didn’t have to get within eating-distance to kill your dinner. Humanity’s time at the top of the food chain had survived.

Stop and think about this for a second, about all the stuff we take for granted. Before projectile points were invented, the only time you got to eat a fast moving animal like a bird was when it dropped dead of kidney failure right in front of you. Suddenly having spears and arrows allowed humans to expand their diets. It allowed them to create small stockpiles of food and defend themselves from a distance. Some have even suggested formulating complicated hunting plans using these tools helped us develop modern human intelligence.

Of course, our ancestors did plenty of hunting before the invention of spears and arrows. But, still. Their coming was a gamechanger that reorganized our entire species.

3. Hand Axe (1.76m years old)

Long before the Aurignacian came along with their music and painting and liberal hippy art stuff, the hottest culture in human history was the Acheulian. Occurring sometime around 1.76 million years ago, this stone age revolution saw our ancestors discard the simplistic tools they’d been using up until then, and start crafting complex weapons unlike anything ever seen before. Stones with specially-sharpened ends that were wielded by hand, these ‘hand axes’ saw early humans able to easily kill other animals for the first time in history.

For a long time, scientists thought the Acheulian revolution started around 1.4 million years ago, the period a number of hand axes found in Ethiopia dated from. Then 2011 came along and turned all that on its head. That was the year that archeologists digging on the muddy banks of Lake Turkana in Kenya uncovered hand axes dating from 1.76 million years ago. That’s a difference of 360,000 years; equivalent to the distance in time between you reading this on your tablet and our ancestors’ creation of stone projectile points.

Those who created and used these hand axes, by the way, definitely weren’t human. They were probably Homo Erectus, the guys who decided walking on two legs was the way to go.

2. Oldowan Tools (Around 2.5m years ago)

Unlike the hand axes of the Acheulian revolution, no non-experts today would be able to recognize Oldowan Tools as even being tools. They were pebbles and rocks that had been crudely chipped to give one serrated edge, likely for cutting, chopping and scraping. We’re talking the absolute most basic of basic implements, here. This was the dawn of the Paleolithic era, the point in time when hominids realized you could get more done with implements than you could with your teeth. It sounds simple to us now, but back then no-one had ever even thought of it. How could they? They were little more than apes at this point.

Despite the mind-blowing chasms of time between us and the first Oldowan tools, they’ve been found all over the world. At least, all over the world as it would have been back then, which basically means ‘Africa’. At this point, Europe and Asia were as alien to these tool makers as planet Weezigg-Cloop is to you (we’re gonna discover it in about 4,000 years. It’s gonna be awesome).

Interestingly, some scholars think those using these tools may have been vegetarian, hence their being content with not developing better tools for like 700,000 years. Who needs an animal-killing hand axe when you don’t eat animals?

1. Contents of the Lake Turkana Toolbox (3.3m years old)

And then we have the Lake Turkana Toolbox.

To be clear, the Lake Turkana Toolbox shouldn’t exist. Digging it up and dating it to 3.3m years ago is like opening Tutankhamun’s Tomb to find a Boeing 747 inside. In fact, scratch that. The distance of time is so vast that it would be like opening Tutankhamun’s Tomb to find a Sci-fi device that won’t be invented for another 796,000 years. One that does stuff we in backward old 2017 can’t even imagine. 3.3m years ago is meant to be a time when no species existed that was capable of making tools. And yet, in 2015, scientists discovered that this was exactly what the apes hanging around Lake Turkanahad been doing.

 To be sure, they don’t look like tools. They look like sharp rocks. But, like the Oldowan Tools above, the point is that someone – or something – made them sharp. Whatever that pre-human creature was, it was starting Earth’s sentient species down a path that would eventually lead to hand axes, then projectile points, then beads, then art, then music, then sculpture… and so-on right the way up to the tablets and spacecraft and 3D printers of today. When you look at it like that, you gotta admit these dull old rocks are secretly kinda cool.

Ancient Tools and Toys

– Real Old