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Monday, July 11, 2016

Stone Tools on Flores, Indonesia

Dr Mark Moore
Australian Research Council Fellow
Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology
University of New England
Armidale, New South Wales, Australia

Research in Indonesia has shown that early hominins settled the region by about 1.6 million years ago and were present in the Soa Basin on the island of Flores by 1.0 million years ago (Brumm et al. 2010).  The hominin species responsible for making the earliest stone tools on Flores is presently unidentified although it was presumably the ancestor of the hominin Homo floresiensis, discovered in 2003 at Liang Bua Cave about 50 km to the west (Morwood et al. 2004; Brown et al. 2004).  Present understanding of the cave deposits suggests that H. floresiensis made stone tools at Liang Bua from about 95,000 years ago to perhaps as recently as 17,000 years ago (Moore et al. 2009; Westaway et al. 2009); thus non-modern hominins practiced a stoneworking tradition on the island that lasted over 900,000 years.

Our joint Australian/Indonesian research team has analysed the early stone tools from two important sites in the Soa Basin—Wolo Sege (about 1.0 million years old [Brumm et al. 2010]) and Mata Menge (about 840,000 years old [Morwood et al. 1999]).  These early stoneworkers made tools by striking flakes from volcanic stones they found in riverbeds and lakeshore cobble deposits.  Flakes were struck from two faces of these stones, creating irregular but roughly round or ovoid cores with a sharp edge around all or part of the periphery.  Sometimes the cores would be held in such a way that the flake would run down this sharp edge, what archaeologists call a 'burin' technique.  Other times the flake blank or core was placed flat or edge-on onto a stone anvil and broken by smashing it with a hammerstone.  The stoneworkers often reduced large flakes in the same way that they reduced cobbles.  Flakes were sometimes flaked more intensively on two parallel edges, creating an awl-like projection—objects archaeologists call 'perforators' (Brumm et al. 2009). http://www.peterbrown-palaeoanthropology.net/Stone%20Tools%20on%20Flores%201.htm

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