Invention

Study Claims Early Man’s Greatest Invention Was the Handle

Forget the wheel! According to a study, the greatest invention of the first men was the HANDLE

  • Study Claims Early Humans’ Greatest Invention May Have Been the Handle
  • Our ancient ancestors started using tools like sharp stones 2.6 million years ago
  • Adding handles to stone tools made them more energy efficient when cutting
  • Also increased the “strength and accuracy” that could be applied to punching and scraping

The wheel is often hailed as the most important invention of all time, having had a massive impact on transportation, agriculture and industry.

But a new study claims that the greatest creation of early humans may have been the handle, as it made stone tools much more energy efficient when chopping and grinding.

It did this by increasing the “force and precision” that could be applied, according to researchers from the University of Liverpool.

Priceless: A new study claims that the greatest creation of early humans may have been the handle, as it made stone tools much more energy efficient when chopping and grinding. The University of Liverpool recruited volunteers (pictured) to come to their conclusion

The emergence of tools with handles, known as 'handled' implements, only occurred around 500,000 years ago, when it would still take half a million years before the wheel was invented - around 6,000 years ago

The emergence of tools with handles, known as “handled” implements, did not occur until about 500,000 years ago, when it would take another half million years before the wheel was invented – around 6,000 years ago.

WHAT IS HAFTING?

Fitting is the action of attaching a handle or strap to a tool.

Examples of these tools include scrapers and axes.

In 2016, the world’s oldest handled ax was discovered in Australia. Experts believe it may have been created by early Aborigines nearly 50,000 years ago.

Archaeologist Professor Sue O’Connor from the Australian National University said the ax dated to between 46,000 and 49,000 years ago, shortly after people first arrived in Australia.

Researchers believe it was used as a tool for felling trees and sharpening wooden spearheads.

The use of tools by our ancient ancestors dates back approximately 2.6 million years, when early humans created tools from bits of flint and stone to act as knives or scrapers.

However, the emergence of tools with handles, known as “handled” implements, did not occur until around 500,000 years ago, when it would take another half a million years before the wheel was invented – around 6,000 years ago.

“The transition from handheld tool technology to shank tool technology marked a significant shift in the conceptualization of tool construction and function,” the researchers write in their paper.

“It is hypothesized that adding a handle improved the (bio)mechanical properties of a tool and the upper limb by providing greater amounts of leverage, strength, and precision.”

The University of Liverpool recruited 40 volunteers, 24 men and 16 women, and gave them a range of tools, including a chopper in the form of an ax with a steel head and wooden handle.

They also received a shavehook used for stripping paint as a scraping tool.

Participants were then asked to use the tools with their handles, as well as after the handles were removed.

They used the hatchet to cut thick wooden dowels, while the scraping tool was used to scrape fibers from a carpet that looked like the thickness of animal skin.

Each volunteer was given a track to wear that followed the movement of their arms and forearms.

The researchers also measured their muscle contractions and oxygen consumption, as well as the speed of the tools used.

Participants were asked to use the tools with their handles, as well as after the handles were removed.  They used an ax to chop up some thick wooden dowels (the photo on the left is an example of the handle tools used and on the right when the handle was removed)

Participants were asked to use the tools with their handles, as well as after the handles were removed. They used an ax to chop up some thick wooden dowels (the photo on the left is an example of the handle tools used and on the right when the handle was removed)

“Results show that the use of shafted tools results in greater range of motion, greater muscle activity, and greater net energy expenditure (EE) compared to handheld equivalents,” the authors wrote.

“Hafting results in very different biomechanical strategies, which ultimately work to provide an energy advantage over equivalent hand tools.

“Specifically, during the chopping task, he shed light on the mechanism by which energy benefit is achieved through increased joint movement and muscle use, which resulted in increased speed. and the force that ultimately made the handled tool used more efficient per unit of energy applied to a task.’

The researchers concluded: “The energetic and biomechanical advantages of fitting [adding handles] undoubtedly contributed both to the invention and to the diffusion of this technology.

“These reductions in physiological and biomechanical demands, as well as energy and time demands, would improve both individual and collective survival.”

The study was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

WHEN DID HUMANS START USING TOOLS?

It’s hard for scientists to say precisely when humans started making tools because the most primitive remains resemble a natural object rather than a human artifact.

The oldest known implements are the Oldowan stone tools from Ethiopia, which date back approximately 2.6 million years.

The period of Acheulean tool technology – up to 1.76 million years ago – featured large stone hand axes made of flint and quartzite.

Towards the end of this period, the tools are refined and then follow the so-called Levallois technique, which sees the creation of scrapers, slicers, pricked and flattened needles.

Around 50,000 years ago, more refined and specialized flint tools were made and used by Neanderthals and it is believed that it was at this stage that tools were constructed from bone.

As human culture progressed, artifacts such as fish hooks, buttons, and bone needles were used.

Cut marks have been found on animal bones dated to 3.4 million years ago – around the time a stocky ape-like ancestor called Australopithecus afarensis – known as Lucy – roamed Africa.