Ancient Stone Knives Made by 'Smart' Humans

Evolutionary history holds that the first humans emerged about 200,000 years ago. It was thought that these early people were in some ways sub-human, as the gradual development of higher-level thinking slowly separated them from their ape-like ancestors. But the archaeological find of an ancient crafted hand tool makes that assumption quite questionable.

Kyle Brown, an experimental archaeologist from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, investigates ancient artifacts by reverse engineering them from raw materials. In a study published in Science, he and a team of fellow scientists reported that certain stone knives, some of which were found in sediment dated at 164,000 years, demonstrated manufacturing techniques that would have required a human-like cleverness.1

Evolution holds that over huge spans of time, humans learned to build complex tools specified to particular tasks and eventually to communicate abstract ideas using symbols. But evidence that these capacities were already fully formed in the most ancient humans keeps pushing back the evolutionary time when these uniquely human features first appeared.

So how ape-like were those knife-creating human ancestors, having only just “emerged” from ape-kind a mere 36,000 years before?

In order to make these knives, the ancients baked the local stones at a certain temperature for a specified length of time. Brown replicated the procedure by placing “crumbly silcrete stones,” the same starting material that the ancients used, beneath a fire. The hardened substance was then brittle and easy to chip and shape. Brown told New Scientist, “These people were extremely smart.”2 The presence of such knives at multiple sites also indicates a sophisticated level of communication, since the knowledge of their manufacture was shared.

The earliest human artifacts appear to have been fashioned by fully human people, and have now been dated back to mankind’s distant archaeological past. But as the time of the “emergence” of fully human behaviors and faculties is pushed further and further back, less and less time is allowed for evolution to have developed those very faculties.

These cleverly crafted stone knives add to a growing list of ancient tools, like glue and artwork, that indicates that the “earliest” humans had the same faculties as modern humans.3 This is just what the creation model, which takes its history from the plain understanding of Genesis, would predict.


  1. Brown, K. S. et al. 2009. Fire as an Engineering Tool of Early Modern Humans. Science. 325 (5942): 859-862.
  2. Callaway, E. Earliest fired knives improved stone age tool kit. New Scientist. Posted on August 13, 2009, access August 18, 2009.
  3. Thomas, B. Stone Blades Cut Back Evolutionary Dates. ICR News. Posted on April 10, 2009, accessed August 18, 2009.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on August 24, 2009.

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