Language and toolmaking ‘evolved together’

Language and toolmaking ‘evolved together’

New research has revealed that Stone Age humans may have boosted their brainpower by mastering the art of elegant hand-toolmaking – an advance that could have paved the way for the development of language. Developments in the sophistication of primitive tools is usually seen as a key moment in human evolution, and one which encouraged better nutrition and advanced social behaviours.

It seems that Stone Age man may have enjoyed more than simply hunting and making tools after evidence was unearthed this week suggesting that Neolithic men painted the insides of their homes using red, yellow and orange pigments from ground-up minerals, animal fat and eggs. The discovery was made at the site of a Stone Age settlement on the island of Orkney and is the earliest example of its kind in Britain.

Also making the headlines in Orkney this week is the discovery of what archaeologists believe to be a 5,000-year-old Neolithic tomb complex. Unfortunately one end of the tomb was accidentally removed as it was discovered by a landscaper with a mechanical digger and the burial site has now flooded, making it a race against time to save the precious artefacts inside.

In other history news, a collection of letters, diaries and amateur film footage of Gyles Mackrell, the so-called ‘Elephant Man’, have been donated to Cambridge University. As the Japanese advanced into South Asia in 1942, Mackrell, a British tea planter living in Assam, organised the evacuation of hundreds of people from Burma to British India, using elephants to cross the monsoon-swollen rivers at the border.

Meanwhile, recently uncovered photographs have revealed how a delegation from the British Legion met with Adolf Hitler in July 1935 to “foster close relations with German veteran organisations and promote peace…”. A reciprocal visit was made by 800 German ex-servicemen to Britain in September 1938. The five members of the Legion also met Hermann Goering, head of the Luftwaffe, and visited the first Nazi concentration camp at Dachau.

A team of biologists analysing ancient DNA and proteins from 14th-century plague pits may have settled the age-old debate on the origins of the Black Death after concluding that the plague’s causative agent was the bacterium known as Yersinia pestis and that the origins of the deadly disease lay in China. The findings also inferred that medieval Europe was invaded by two different sources of the bacterium.

In archaeology news, the discovery of the remains of a mud-brick enclosure wall in Giza, Egypt, that would have surrounded the Great Sphinx may suggest that an ancient Egyptian king was anxious to protect the monument. It is thought that the wall was designed to protect the Sphinx from sand blown in by the wind and probably formed part of a larger enclosure.

Back in Britain, archaeologists have unearthed a collection of Bronze Age axe heads, spear tips and other objects including an intact pottery container with heavy contents, in a field near Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex. The find was initially made by a metal detectorist and the hoard has now been moved to a local museum for further investigation.

In auction news, Amedeo Modigliani’s La Belle Romaine has sold at auction for over £42.7 million – a record for the artist’s work. The painting forms part of a series of nudes created in 1917 – the previous record for Modigliani’s works was £35.8 million, set earlier this year in Paris, France.

And finally, an unusual find came to light this week after a Roman coin was unearthed by a metal detectorist near Brighton in East Sussex. The coin appears to be a Roman forgery, based on others struck to commemorate the battle of Actium in 31 BC. However, the coin has been declared a "terrible fake" probably forged from memory by a craftsmen who was "barely literate" – one face depicts the wrong emperor, misspelling the word Egypt, while the other side features a crocodile that faces the opposite way to the original.

 

 

 

 

  • Article Type: | Blog |
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