Posts Tagged ‘sophisticated cave men’

World’s First Computer May Be Even Older Than Thought

Science, Sophistication of Ancestors, Uncategorized, Unexplained Artifact | Posted by Chris Parker
Jul 30 2009

New, Sharp, Science,A New Scientist Blog
Jo Marchant, consultant

From Swiss Army knives to iPhones, it seems we just love fancy gadgets with as many different functions as possible. And judging from the ancient Greek Antikythera mechanism, the desire to impress with the latest multipurpose must-have item goes back at least 2000 years.

This mysterious box of tricks was a portable clockwork computer, dating from the first or second century BC. Operated by turning a handle on the side, it modelled the movements of the Sun, Moon and planets through the sky, sported a local calendar, star calendar and Moon-phase display, and could even predict eclipses and track the timing of the Olympic games.

I gave a talk on the device at London’s Royal Institution last night. One new clue I mentioned to the origin of the mechanism comes from the Olympiad dial – there are six sets of games named on the dial, five of which have been deciphered so far. Four of them, including the Olympics, were major games known across the Greek world. But the fifth, Naa, was much smaller, and would only have been of local interest.

The Naa games were held in Dodona in northwestern Greece, so Alexander Jones of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in New York has suggested that the mechanism must have been made by or for someone from that area.

Intriguingly, this could mean the device is even older than thought……

The Entire Short Article Can be Found Here With Alternate Video

Jo Marchant is author of Decoding the Heavens, a book about the Antikythera mechanism. It has been shortlisted for the 2009 Royal Society Prize for Science Books, and is out now in paperback.

Neanderthal Teaches Science a Thing or Two

Church of Darwin, Science, Sophistication of Ancestors, Uncategorized | Posted by Chris Parker
May 13 2009

Did man evolve from primitive, less intelligent forms into presumably smarter, brainier and more sophisticated modern man? Or as we learn from the Bible, did he begin with language, intelligence, problem solving capability equal to that of “modern” man? The answer is, the more we learn about Neanderthal and Cro Magnon, the more science realizes that their initial, evolution derived assessment of him is wrong…..s8int.com

Evidence of Modern Smarts in Stone Age Superglue
By Brandon Keim Wired Science, May 12, 2009

Researchers who reverse-engineered an ancient superglue have found that Stone Age people were smarter than we thought.

Making the glue, originally used on 70,000-year-old composite tools, clearly required high-level cognitive powers. Anthropologists usually use symbolic art as the benchmark for modern cognition, but making the glue was an equally profound accomplishment.

“These artisans were exceedingly skilled; they understood the properties of their adhesive ingredients, and they were able to manipulate them knowingly,” wrote University of Witwatersrand archaeologists in a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The archaeologists took design cues from stone tools found during a decade of excavation at South Africa’s Sibudu Cave site. The stones were still covered with traces of an iron-rich red pigment and acacia gum, a natural adhesive found in the bark of acacia trees.

Acacia gum was almost certainly used to attach the stones to wooden shafts, but researchers have debated the pigment’s role. Some suggested that it was decoration. The Witersrand team suspected a more functional use.

Indeed, when they used Stone Age toolmaking techniques to attach stones to wooden shafts with nothing but acacia gum, the tools soon fell apart. When they added the pigment, the tools stuck together. But making the glue required much more than simple mixing. It demanded careful and sustained attention.

Keeping the fire at the right temperature required certain types of wood, with a certain degree of moisture content. If glues were mixed too close to the fire, they contained air bubbles. If too dry, they weren’t cohesive; if too wet, they were weak. The Sibudu Cave’s Stone Age inhabitants, wrote the researchers, were “competent chemists, alchemists and pyrotechnologists.”

The Sibudu tools were about as old as the first possible evidence of symbolic art, also found in South Africa. But some archaeologists say that art, consisting of cross-hatched engravings on stone, may represent absent-minded doodles rather than a cognitive leap. The glues are a more convincing indication of modern intelligence.

“The glue maker needs to pay careful attention to the condition of ingredients before and during the procedure and must be able to switch attention between aspects of the methodology,” wrote the Witwatersrand team. “To hold many courses of action in the mind involves multitasking. This is one trait of modern human minds, notwithstanding that even today, some people find multilevel operations difficult.”