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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cro-Magnon needles

Charles Wm. Dimmick writes:
> Amazingly enough, some anthropologists believe that
> the rapid spread of Cro-Magnon culture into Europe
> is related both to the development of complex speech
> patterns and the invention of the sewing needle, both
> occurring about 40,000 years ago.

That's a very interesting speculation.

At that time, I would guess we are talking about needles made out of bone. But Charles adds more:

> Or antler. An important Cro-Magnon invention was the
> ability to groove and split antler to make long straight
> splinters that could then be shaped into spear points
> [especially barbed harpoon-like points] and sewing
> needles.

and Peter Boulding continues today's lesson on Cro-Magnon man:

It's pretty amazing what Mr C M M managed to use antlers for. I've seen a trench eighteen inches wide and four feet deep cut into solid chalk, running in a 100-foot diameter circle round the top of one of those dome-shaped Dorset hills, that was dug entirely with pieces of antler; no sign of flint tools. The trench was the foundation of a wooden henge: at three-foot intervals there were foot-deep round holes in the base of the trench for the telegraph pole-sized wooden uprights. The henge, whose purpose is unknown, took two generations to build; four generations later the entire structure was very deliberately burned down: again, we have no idea why, but it's not that simple to turn that many telegraph poles into charcoal, not when they're buried five feet deep in tightly-packed chalk infill.

Although Peter needed to clarify, in response to this objection:
> I didn't know that any of the henges, wood or stone, were CMM. Are
> you sure?
No, you're right: I was using "CMM" to indicate what archaeologists and anthropologists nowadays call simply "modern man"--i.e. CMM and everyone descended from him; we used to refer to ourselves as CMM to merely to distinguish ourselves from the Neanderthals we supplanted. AFAIK no known henges are anything like 10,000+ years old; the one I referred to was onlyabout a third of that age.

So ends today's Anthopology lesson.

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