How Homo erectus went extinct over laziness -study.
Scientists believe the 'least-effort strategies' employed to build tools and collect resources may have contributed to the downfall of the primitive human species.
Unlike other hominids, the tools created by Homo erectus were comparatively low quality and were built using low-quality materials found nearby, experts say.
This is in sharp contrast to stone tools made by other hominid species, including early Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, who climbed mountains to find good quality stone and transported it over huge distances.
This laziness paired with an inability to adapt to a changing climate likely resulted in the species going extinct, scientists say.
Researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) studied the ancient populations that lived in the Arabian Peninsula during the Early Stone Age.
The team examined stone tools used by Homo erectus unearthed in Saffaqah - which is about 200 kilometres west of Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh - to try to work out why the species went extinct.
First thought to have evolved around 1.9 million years ago in Africa, Homo erectus was the first early hominid to become a true global traveller.
They are known to have migrated from Africa into Eurasia, spreading as far as Georgia, Sri Lanka, China and Indonesia.
However, the hominid ultimately went extinct around 140,000 years ago.
According to the latest findings from the Australian National University, this can be blamed on a lack of ambition, wonder and industriousness.
"They really don't seem to have been pushing themselves," said lead researcher Dr Ceri Shipton of the ANU School of Culture, History and Language.
"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," he explained.
Homo erectus is thought to have lived in hunter-gatherer societies. Archaeological evidence suggests Homo erectus used fire and made basic stone tools.
Researchers said this lack of wonder 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."
However, when researchers examined a rocky outcrop close to a known area they found 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?" Dr Shipton said.
This is in contrast to hominids of later periods, including early Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, which evidence shows climbed mountains to find good quality stone and transported it over vast distances to use in their tools.
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.
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|Publication:||The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)|
|Date:||Aug 11, 2018|
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