Humans were already recycling 13,000 years agoSeptember 20, 2012
A study at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili and the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) reveals that humans from the Upper Palaeolithic Age recycled their stone artefacts to be put to other uses. The study is based on burnt artefacts found in the Molí del Salt site in Tarragona, Spain.
The recycling of stone tools during Prehistoric times has hardly been dealt with due to the difficulties in verifying such practices in archaeological records. Nonetheless, it is possible to find some evidence, as demonstrated in a study published in the 'Journal of Archaeological Science'.
"In order to identify the recycling, it is necessary to differentiate the two stages of the manipulation sequence of an object: the moment before it is altered and the moment after. The two are separated by an interval in which the artefact has undergone some form of alteration. This is the first time a systematic study of this type has been performed," as explained to SINC by Manuel Vaquero, researcher at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili.
The archaeologists found a high percentage of burnt remains in the Molí del Salt site (Tarragona), which date back to the end of the Upper Palaeolithic Age some 13,000 years ago. The expert ensures that "we chose these burnt artefacts because they can tell us in a very simple way whether they have been modified after being exposed to fire."
The results indicate that the recycling of tools was normal during the Upper Palaeolithic Age. However, this practice is not documented in the same way as other types of artefacts. The use of recycled tools was more common for domestic activities and seems to be associated with immediate needs.
Recycling domestic tools
Recycling is linked to expedited behaviour, which means simply shaped and quickly available tools as and when the need arises. Tools used for hunting, like projectile points for instance, were almost never made from recycled artefacts. In contrast, double artefacts (those that combine two tools within the same item) were recycled more often.
"This indicates that a large part of these tools were not conceived from the outset as double artefacts but a single tool was made first and a second was added later when the artefact was recycled," outlines the researcher. The history of the artefacts and the sequence of changes that they have undergone over time are fundamental in understanding their final morphology.
According to Vaquero, "in terms of the objects, this is mostly important from a cultural value point of view, especially in periods like the Upper Palaeolithic Age, in which it is thought that the sharper the object the sharper the mind."
Sustainable practices with natural resources
Recycling could have been determinant in hunter-gatherer populations during the Palaeolithic Age if we consider the behaviour of current indigenous populations nowadays.
"It bears economic importance too, since it would have increased the availability of lithic resources, especially during times of scarcity. In addition, it is a relevant factor for interpreting sites because they become not just places to live but also places of resource provision," states the researcher.
Reusing resources meant that these humans did not have to move around to find raw materials to make their tools, a task that could have taken them far away from camp. "They would simply take an artefact abandoned by those groups who previously inhabited the site."
Vaquero and the team believe that this practice needs to be borne in mind when analysing the site. "Those populating these areas could have moved objects from where they were originally located. They even could have dug up or removed sediments in search of tools," highlights the researcher.
Manuel Vaquero, Susana Alonso, Sergio García-Catalán, Angélica García-Hernández, Bruno Gómez de Soler, David Rettig, María Soto. "Temporal nature and recycling of Upper Paleolithic artifacts: the burned tools from the Molí del Salt site (Vimbodí i Poblet, northeastern Spain)" Journal of Archaeological Science, 39: 2785 - 2796, 2012.
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology
Related Recycling Articles:
While most people think of recycling in terms of the packaging for household products, the concept can extend to the chemistry to make them in the first place.
A WSU research team for the first time has developed a promising way to recycle the popular carbon fiber plastics that are used in everything from modern airplanes and sporting goods to the wind energy industry.
Want to recycle or compost more? Try moving the bins closer, new UBC research suggests.
Learning and memory depend on cells' ability to strengthen and weaken circuits in the brain.
Only 2 percent of the 78 million tons of manufactured plastics are currently recycled into similar products because polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), which account for two-thirds of the world's plastics, have different chemical structures and cannot be efficiently repurposed together.
The University of Utah joins the Reducing Embodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions Institute, a national coalition that aims to drive down the cost of technologies essential to reuse, recycle and remanufacture metals and other materials.
Researchers from The University of Manchester have taken a major step forward by describing the quantitative modelling of the electronic structure of a family of uranium nitride compounds -- a process that could in the future help with nuclear waste recycling technologies.
Nitrogen-doped graphene quantum dots are used as electrocatalysts to reduce carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, to valuable hydrocarbons like ethylene and ethanol.
All cells have surface membranes and maintaining the surface area of this membrane is critical to the normal functioning of cells.
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich researchers have elucidated a mechanism that recycles bacterial ribosomes stalled on messenger RNAs that lack termination codons.
Related Recycling Reading:
Why Should I Recycle? (Why Should I? Books)
by Jen Green (Author), Mike Gordon (Illustrator)
What if everybody threw away old bottles and newspapers, littering the world with glass and plastic and tin cans that should be recycled and made into new products? Mr. Jones is a teacher who sets a good example for kids by separating his trash for recycling. When he takes them on a class trip to a recycling plant they learn the value of recycling. Part of every child's development involves asking questions. Today, some of the most important questions kids ask are related to the natural environment. The enlightening and entertaining four-book Why Should I? series demonstrates the... View Details
The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story About Recycling (Little Green Books)
by Alison Inches (Author), Pete Whitehead (Illustrator)
Learn about recycling from a new perspective! Peek into this diary of a plastic bottle as it goes on a journey from the refinery plant, to the manufacturing line, to the store shelf, to a garbage can, and finally to a recycling plant where it emerges into it's new life...as a fleece jacket!
Told from the point of view of a free-spirited plastic bottle, kids can share in the daily experiences and inner thoughts of the bottle through his personal journal. The diary entries will be fun and humorous yet point out the ecological significance behind each product and the resources used to... View Details
The Adventures of an Aluminum Can: A Story About Recycling (Little Green Books)
by Alison Inches (Author), Mark Chambers (Illustrator)
Peek into this diary of an aluminum can as it goes on a journey from inside a bauxite rock, to the manufacturing line, to the store shelf, to a display on a bookshelf, to a garbage can, and finally to a recycling plant where it emerges into its new life…as a baseball bat!
This 8x8 paperback storybook is told from the point of view of an enthusiastic aluminum can. The diary entries are fun and humorous, yet point out the ecological significance behind each product and the resources used to make it. View Details
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia (Millbrook Picture Books)
by Miranda Paul (Author), Elizabeth Zunon (Illustrator)
Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred.
The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, leaving behind a terrible smell. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens. They killed livestock that tried to eat them. Something had to change.
Isatou Ceesay was that change. She found a way to... View Details
Recycling Is Fun (My Little Planet)
by Charles Ghigna (Author), Ag Jatkowska (Illustrator)
Children learn that sorting recycling and giving new life to old things is not only good for the environment. It is a whole lot of fun, too! View Details
Garbage and Recycling: Environmental Facts and Experiments (Young Discoverers: Environmental Facts and Experiments)
by Rosie Harlow (Author), Sally Morgan (Author)
Explaining the difference between biodegradable and non-biodegradable garbage, Young Discoverers: Garbage and Recycling by Rosie Harlow and Sally Morgan shows how glass, metal, and wool can be easily recycled. How Can I Help? boxes give suggestions for the young environmentalist who wants to recycle at home.View Details
The Three R's: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle (What Do You Know About? Books)
by Nuria Roca (Author), Rosa M. Curto (Illustrator)
Attractive color illustrations and easy-to-follow text combine to present factual information that younger boys and girls will readily absorb and understand. The Three R's: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle is one in a series of four entertaining What Do You Know About? books, for very young children. It describes the ways in which kids and their families can avoid waste and be environmentally conscious. Four pages presenting activities for children appear at the back of the book, followed by a two-page section for parents, with tips on explaining the subject in more detail. View Details
by Ellie Bethel (Author)
Perfect for Earth Day on April 22, but important for teaching evironmental lessons year around! Michael Recycle tells the adventures of a young superhero whose power allows him to teach people about recycling.
There once was a town
Where garbage was left
To grow rotten and slimy.
It never smelled fresh.
The air was all hazy.
But the people did nothing.
They got rather lazy.
But the townspeople are called to attention when a streak of green crash-lands in the town dump! It’s not a bird, nor a plane, but a new... View Details
Recycling Reconsidered: The Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action in the United States (Urban and Industrial Environments)
by Samantha MacBride (Author)
How the success and popularity of recycling has diverted attention from the steep environmental costs of manufacturing the goods we consume and discard.
Recycling is widely celebrated as an environmental success story. The accomplishments of the recycling movement can be seen in municipal practice, a thriving private recycling industry, and widespread public support and participation. In the United States, more people recycle than vote. But, as Samantha MacBride points out in this book, the goals of recycling―saving the earth (and trees), conserving resources, and greening... View Details
Recycling! (Helping Hands Series)
by Jess Stockham (Author)
A child helps sort waste to determine which items can be recycled and which can be reused. View Details