Nav: Home

Laziness helped lead to extinction of Homo erectus

August 10, 2018

New archaeological research from The Australian National University (ANU) has found that Homo erectus, an extinct species of primitive humans, went extinct in part because they were 'lazy'.

An archaeological excavation of ancient human populations in the Arabian Peninsula during the Early Stone Age, found that Homo erectus used 'least-effort strategies' for tool making and collecting resources.

This 'laziness' paired with an inability to adapt to a changing climate likely played a role in the species going extinct, according to lead researcher Dr Ceri Shipton of the ANU School of Culture, History and Language.

"They really don't seem to have been pushing themselves," Dr Shipton said.

"I don't get the sense they were explorers looking over the horizon. They didn't have that same sense of wonder that we have."

Dr Shipton said this was evident in the way the species made their stone tools and collected resources.

"To make their stone tools they would use whatever rocks they could find lying around their camp, which were mostly of comparatively low quality to what later stone tool makers used," he said.

"At the site we looked at there was a big rocky outcrop of quality stone just a short distance away up a small hill.

"But rather than walk up the hill they would just use whatever bits had rolled down and were lying at the bottom.

"When we looked at the rocky outcrop there were no signs of any activity, no artefacts and no quarrying of the stone.

"They knew it was there, but because they had enough adequate resources they seem to have thought, 'why bother?'".

This is in contrast to the stone tool makers of later periods, including early Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, who were climbing mountains to find good quality stone and transporting it over long distances.

Dr Shipton said a failure to progress technologically, as their environment dried out into a desert, also contributed to the population's demise.

"Not only were they lazy, but they were also very conservative," Dr Shipton said.

"The sediment samples showed the environment around them was changing, but they were doing the exact same things with their tools.

"There was no progression at all, and their tools are never very far from these now dry river beds. I think in the end the environment just got too dry for them."

The excavation and survey work was undertaken in 2014 at the site of Saffaqah near Dawadmi in central Saudi Arabia.

The research has been published in a paper for the PLoS One scientific journal.
-end-
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION OR INTERVIEW:

Dr Ceri Shipton
ANU School of Culture, History and Language
T: 0458 976 296
E: ceri.shipton@anu.edu.au

FOR MEDIA ASSISTANCE:

Aaron Walker
ANU media team
T: +61 2 6125 7979
M: +61 418 307 213
E: media@anu.edu.au

Australian National University

Related Stone Tools Articles:

Unexpected rotation in a stone-dead galaxy
joint European-US study led by experts from Niels Bohr Institute (NBI) at University of Copenhagen, Denmark, reveals a rotating stellar disk Ă  la the Milky Way in a stone-dead galaxy 10 billion light-years from Earth.
Researchers create a 'Rosetta Stone' to decode immune recognition
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have developed an algorithm that predicts T cell recognition of antigens and sets the stage to more effectively harness the immune system
Steppe migrant thugs pacified by Stone Age farming women
When present day European genetics was formed during the beginning of the Bronze Age 5,000 years ago it was a result of migrating Yamnaya pastoralists from the Caspian steppe encountering Stone Age farmers in northern and eastern Europe.
Autism researchers discover genetic 'Rosetta Stone'
Distinct sets of genetic defects in a single neuronal protein can lead either to infantile epilepsy or to autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), depending on whether the respective mutations boost the protein's function or sabotage it, according to a new study by UC San Francisco researchers.
CO2, the philosopher's stone to obtain valuable pharmaceuticals
Starting from readily available materials and CO2, ICIQ researchers prepare useful building blocks named 'cyclic carbonates' that can be converted into valuable pharmaceuticals like Tamiflu®.
Study finds capuchin monkeys produce sharp stone flakes similar to tools
In a study published in Nature, researchers describe that rock fragments produced unintentionally today by primates in Serra da Capivara National Park in Brazil resemble tools made deliberately 2.6 million years ago by ancestors of humans.
Underwater Stone Age settlement mapped out
Seven years ago divers discovered the oldest known stationary fish traps in northern Europe off the coast of southern Sweden.
Middle Stone Age ochre processing tools reveal cultural and behavioural complexity
Middle Stone Age humans in East Africa may have employed varied techniques to process ochre for functional and symbolic uses, according to a study published Nov.
Monkeys are seen making stone flakes so humans are 'not unique' after all
In a paper, published in Nature, the research team says this finding is significant because archaeologists had always understood that the production of multiple stone flakes with characteristics such as conchoidal fractures and sharp cutting edges was a behaviour unique to hominins.
Field Museum scientists unearth centuries-old crocodile stone
The discovery of a carved stone crocodile by Field Museum archaeologists has provided a key to revising long-held ideas about the ruins of the ancient city of Lambityeco in what is now Oaxaca, Mexico.

Related Stone Tools Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Don't Fear Math
Why do many of us hate, even fear math? Why are we convinced we're bad at it? This hour, TED speakers explore the myths we tell ourselves and how changing our approach can unlock the beauty of math. Guests include budgeting specialist Phylecia Jones, mathematician and educator Dan Finkel, math teacher Eddie Woo, educator Masha Gershman, and radio personality and eternal math nerd Adam Spencer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#517 Life in Plastic, Not Fantastic
Our modern lives run on plastic. It's in the computers and phones we use. It's in our clothing, it wraps our food. It surrounds us every day, and when we throw it out, it's devastating for the environment. This week we air a live show we recorded at the 2019 Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, D.C., where Bethany Brookshire sat down with three plastics researchers - Christina Simkanin, Chelsea Rochman, and Jennifer Provencher - and a live audience to discuss plastics in our oceans. Where they are, where they are going, and what they carry with them. Related links:...