A History of Technology by Charles Singer et al (eds)

By Charles Singer et al (eds)

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Helen Keller, deaf, dumb, and blind since infancy, has described how at seven she suddenly realized that ‘everything had a name’. This discovery had a tremendous effect on her mind, for it opened the way to communication with other human beings. Verbal language is a technical aid, a tool which had to be invented. Through its introduction man acquired the power of logical thought. When things have been given names— or symbols of some sort, for language does not necessarily demand speech— the mind can isolate and regroup them instead of thinking of them only as parts of a continuous sequence of events, as in a dream or silent film.

Here surely was the origin o f the tradition of tool-making. Where no naturally sharp pieces o f stone lay ready to hand, more intelligent individuals saw that the solution was to break pebbles and produce fresh sharp edges. Perhaps accidental breakages in using pebbles as 20 21 F igure i i — D entition o f ( a ) gorilla and ( b ) modem man. Canine teeth shaded. missiles had been observed. Once this tradition had begun, the manifold uses o f chipped stones became obvious (ch 6). Dentally, and from the alimentary point o f view, we should be vegetarians.

Few are recognizable implements. It appears that Pekin man collected stones from a nearby river-bed and from neighbouring cliffs, and brought them to the cave in order to work them into implements when required. He broke up the lumps by using a stone slab or large bone as an anvil and striking them with a hammerstone. Usually he found it most convenient to use the resulting flakes, though sometimes the residual cores proved more useful (figure 1 2 a , b ) . Occasionally, flakes were crudely trimmed into points or scrapers.

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