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Peter Morris
04-13-2006, 09:26 PM
What is the single oldest man-made object ever discovered?

Ground rules: by man-made I mean an object deliberately manufactured or altered by humans / neandertals/ cro-magnons or whatever. The remnants of an animal bone gnawed by ancient man would not count. An amimal horn that was used as a primitive pick wouldn't count, but one thathad been deliberately shaped to make a more efficient tool would count. A rock worn down by being used to crack nuts wouldn't count, but a rock decorated for artistic purposes would count.

edwino
04-13-2006, 11:12 PM
2.5 to 2.6 million years old. (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A01E2D91F3BF930A15752C0A961958260)

Stone tools from Gona, Ethopia. Work was published in Nature in 1997.

John Mace
04-14-2006, 12:12 AM
Define "man".

Eleusis
04-14-2006, 12:49 AM
Hrmmph. You read the OP?

I think he already defined it.

Squink
04-14-2006, 12:53 AM
Define "man".
MAN, n. (http://www.alcyone.com/max/lit/devils/m.html)
An animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be. His chief occupation is extermination of other animals and his own species, which, however, multiplies with such insistent rapidity as to infest the whole habitable earth and Canada....

John Mace
04-14-2006, 10:46 AM
Hrmmph. You read the OP?

I think he already defined it.
"Whatever" is hardly a good working definition. Since he includes Neanderthals, which are not in the direct line of descent of modern humans, then there would be no reason not to include every species that ever lived unless he means the oldest thing made by a member of the Genus Homo. In that case, we don't know for sure that the 2.5M year old stone tools were "man made". They could have been made by Australopithicines.

Peter Morris
04-14-2006, 01:35 PM
"Whatever" is hardly a good working definition. [/I].

I meant it to be as general as possible so it wouldn't exclude anything. If those tools were made by australopithecines, then I would still consider them to be man-made.

How about this for a definition for the purposes of this particular question : Man is any creature capable of deliberately manufacturing or altering tools for a specific purpose.

As for the rest of the animal kingdom, if you can show me 5-million year old cow tools I'd be interested in that too.


BTW, rather than identify a class of objects, I'm really hoping you can identify a specific object, and say something like "this particular arrowhead is the single oldest artifact ever discovered" Is that possible?

UncleBeer
04-14-2006, 01:37 PM
Gas station vending machine sandwiches. Probably the cheese ones.

zoid
04-14-2006, 01:52 PM
How about this for a definition for the purposes of this particular question : Man is any creature capable of deliberately manufacturing or altering tools for a specific purpose.


So do chimpanzees who break twigs off and strip them of leaves to fashion a device for “fishing” for termites count as “human”?

Jayrot
04-14-2006, 02:25 PM
So do chimpanzees who break twigs off and strip them of leaves to fashion a device for “fishing” for termites count as “human”?
I knew someone was going to say this (I was thinking of it myself). I imagine the answer would be "yes, now please identify a 3000+ year old twig that can be shown to have been used as a tool by chimps".

John Mace
04-14-2006, 04:49 PM
I meant it to be as general as possible so it wouldn't exclude anything. If those tools were made by australopithecines, then I would still consider them to be man-made.
An important point of clarificantion, since not many people who know about this sort of thing would think that Australopithicine = man.

How about this for a definition for the purposes of this particular question : Man is any creature capable of deliberately manufacturing or altering tools for a specific purpose.[/QUOTE]
That's a terrible definition of "man", even if it ends up giving you the answer you seem to be looking for. It would only be by luck, or simply not looking that we've never found any such objects made by an organism that couldn't be considered "man" by any stretch of the imagination.

Peter Morris
04-14-2006, 05:06 PM
:rolleyes:

I think you know exactly what I mean, even though I lack the detailed knowledge of human evolution to use the correct technical terms.

Actually, I suspect you don't either, given that the dictionary disagrees with your spelling of australopithecines.

Perhaps the question should be "what is the oldest artifact made by an intelligent ape-descended life form" Happy?

John Mace
04-14-2006, 05:18 PM
Perhaps the question should be "what is the oldest artifact made by an intelligent ape-descended life form" Happy?
Actually, that's not bad!

zoid
04-14-2006, 05:47 PM
I knew someone was going to say this (I was thinking of it myself). I imagine the answer would be "yes, now please identify a 3000+ year old twig that can be shown to have been used as a tool by chimps".

I'm sure I couldn't identify one if I fell over it - I was just wondering about the constraints.

John Mace
04-14-2006, 06:42 PM
I didn't notice this before:

BTW, rather than identify a class of objects, I'm really hoping you can identify a specific object, and say something like "this particular arrowhead is the single oldest artifact ever discovered" Is that possible?
No, I don't think we can. The Olduvai stone tools referenced in post #2 are the oldest hominid-made tools, but I can't believe anyone would point to just one of them and say: This particular one is the oldest. Our dating methodolgy doesn't work that way.

wolf_meister
04-15-2006, 12:00 AM
The server at the Straight Dope Message Board. :D

lieu
04-15-2006, 12:41 AM
I would wonder if the evolution of tools from haphazard flint chips (or the like) into something more utilitarian and, therefore, recognizable can fit your question. I mean I completely understand the spirit from which you're asking, but I'm not sure a delineation exists with which to provide an answer.

Maybe the one thing I could argue is that a tool existed before an object de art but at what point did a knapped remnant qualify as a tool?

I can see the answer to your question being approached and claimed by seperate archaeologists, each based on their potentially personal (and selfish) definitions.

Operation Ripper
04-15-2006, 04:57 AM
The server at the Straight Dope Message Board. :D

Hehe. ;)

kanicbird
04-15-2006, 06:31 AM
Why discriminate against all the other animals, or other kingdoms for that matter, what if a dolphin made a fishing net way back then? Or a Martian made a transwarp drive?

How about the oldest manufactured artifact?

Chronos
04-15-2006, 04:31 PM
The server at the Straight Dope Message Board.No, that was made by pre-human proto-hampsters. Minature giant space hampsters, to be precise.

xiix
04-15-2006, 11:33 PM
Scientists have published a paper in the journal Nature describing stone tools made 2.5 million to 2.6 million years ago that are considered the oldest-known artifacts created by humans or their direct ancestors. (bolding is mine)

Surely that is redundant improper English?

Dervorin
04-17-2006, 01:25 AM
No, that was made by pre-human proto-hampsters. Minature giant space hampsters, to be precise.
Minature giants? Where can I find more true false information about this horribly wonderful life-form?