P200 Introduction to Prehistoric Archaeology

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Homo erectus: Out of Africa

Sites with evidence for Homo erectus in Eurasia by 1.5 million years ago:

A number of stratified sites in Europe and Asia found in reversed sediments (paleomagnetically older than 780,000 years ago)

There is no evidence for australopithecines outside of Africa, and all australopithecines had disappeared from the fossil record by 1 million years ago, leaving Homo as the only toolmaker.

Homo erectus was the first hominid to leave the African continent and colonize parts of southern Europe and Asia. Current evidence makes it likely that this had occurred before 1.5 million years ago (beforeAcheulian technology was invented), perhaps explaining why many early Eurasian sites contain only Oldowan-style core and flake tools, rather than handaxes. Alternatively, perhaps alternative raw materials (such as bamboo) were used as cutting tools in the Asian subtropics. If you are interested, you can read an online article by Roy Larick and Russ Ciochon that discusses this evidence.

Particularly after the "Turkana Boy" skeleton was discovered, anatomical evidence for Homo erectus presents archaeologists with a number of challenges:

Consider the evidence from the following sites (described in text and lecture) that date between 1.5 and 300,000 years ago:

Can we argue that hunting definitely occurred at any/all of these sites?

Are any/all of these sites plausible home-base sites? How could we recognize behavior patterns of camping or sharing food?

How could you characterize the technological skill and strategies of the toolmakers, based on this sample of sites?

 
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Last updated: 14 February, 2000
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