Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

A Stone Age “Rosetta Stone”

Image credits: R. Fullagar and J. Field

Modern experiments form the basis for studying use-wear on archaeological artefacts and microscopic residues preserved on ancient tools. The inset photos show a fish scale on a Pleistocene stone tool from Siberia (scale bar 1 mm), a grass compound starch grain from a Pleistocene grinding stone in Australia (scale bar 0.01 mm) and a grass phytolith from the same grinding stone (scale bar 0.005 mm). Images: R. Fullagar (main photo, fish scale) and J. Field (starch grain, phytolith)

By Richard “Bert” Roberts, Richard Fullagar & Linda Prinsloo

Our ancestors had the edge over several other contemporary species of human that were headed for extinction by about 40,000 years ago. What were they doing differently? Archaeological scientists are trying to find out using modern techniques to study traces of use left on stone tools and other artefacts.

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