We switched our focus in the Archaeology module back to the Stone Age, starting with some hands-on learning about ancient stone tool technology. Understanding stone tools by simply observing archaeological artifacts is a tricky thing – even seeing that these objects are artifacts can be challenging if you don’t have years of experience. Many archaeologists have found that the quickest way to understand stone tools is to learn how to make and use them.
Prof. Hildebrand, TA Hilary Duke and TBI research assistant John Ekusi took the students to a stand of palm trees just off campus to learn how to process palm nuts using stone tools. Even though stone tools can be made very sharp, not all stone tools are made for the purpose of cutting things like meat. Stone tools can be used in other activities such as cracking open nuts, pounding tough fibrous plant materials, or even smashing open bones to get access to marrow. These percussive activities were likely important parts of early hominin life.
John Ekusi is a TBI research assistant who grew up in the Nariokotome region of Turkana. He is an expert in processing palm nuts for eating. John kindly showed the students how to process these nuts using stone.