How did some prehistoric geniuses start the human technological revolution?

In the first few million years of human evolution, technologies changed slowly. About three million years ago, our ancestors made stone chips and coarse shredders. Two million years ago, fist axes were made. One million years ago, primitive humans sometimes used fire sparingly. Then, five hundred thousand years ago, technological change accelerated and bayonets, fire, axes, beads and bows appeared.

This technological revolution was not the work of one person. Innovations appeared in various groups (modern wise men and primitive wise men and possibly even Neanderthals) and then spread. Many of the original inventions were unique: unique and only once. Instead of being invented by different people and independently, they were discovered once and then shared. This shows that few intelligent people created most of the great inventions of history; But not all of them were modern humans.


Five hundred thousand years ago in southern Africa, primitive wise men first tied stone blades to wooden spears and invented the bayonet. Bayonets were transformative as weapons and as the first composite tools made from a combination of several components.

The bayonet expanded and appeared 300,000 years ago in East Africa and the Middle East and then 250,000 years ago in Europe. This pattern shows that the bayonet was gradually transferred from one group of people to another and spread from Africa to Europe.

Ancient bayonet / Serengeti spearpoint

Seering bayonet

Conquer fire

Four hundred thousand years ago, signs of the use of fire, including charcoal and burnt bones, became widespread in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Instead of being accidentally seen in isolated places, this phenomenon happened almost everywhere at the same time, indicating an invention and then a rapid spread.

The usefulness of fire is obvious and the maintenance of fire is easy; However, it is more difficult to light a fire, and this was probably the main obstacle. The widespread use of fire was probably a sign of the invention of fire. The drill was a wood fire that was pulled on another piece of wood to create friction. Hunter hunters still use this tool today.

Fire drill

Hazabe Fire Station (Tanzania)

Surprisingly, the oldest evidence for the regular use of fire comes from Europe, where Neanderthals lived at the time. Did the Neanderthals first master fire? why not! The Neanderthals’ brains were as big as our brains, and they needed fire more than the wise African humans to live in the icy cold winters.


270,000 years ago in Central Africa, fist axes began to disappear and were replaced by a new technology called the blade core. These axes looked like short, thick axes; But they were different tools. Microscopic scratches on them show that they were attached to wooden handles and made a real hand ax. The axes spread rapidly throughout Africa, and then modern humans took them to the Arabian Peninsula, Australia, and eventually Europe.


The oldest beads are 140,000 years old and have been found in Morocco. They were made of string by piercing snail shells and then discarding them. Ancient wise men lived in North Africa at that time; Therefore, their creators were not modern humans.

The beads then appeared in Europe about 115,000 to 120,000 years ago, when Neanderthals wore them, and were finally used by modern humans in South Africa 70,000 years ago.

Kondoa beads

Beehives (Tanzania)


The oldest arrowhead appeared in South Africa more than 70,000 years ago and was probably made by Bushman ancestors; The tribes that lived in this area for 200,000 years. The bows then reached modern humans in East Africa, 48,000 years ago to South Asia, 40,000 years ago to Europe, and finally 12,000 years ago to Alaska and the Americas.

Hadzabe archer

Archer Hazabe

Archery spread from Africa

Archery spreads beyond Africa

Neanderthals never used bows; But the timing of the expansion of the bows suggests that wise humans may have used this tool to fight the Neanderthals.

Trade technology

It is not unlikely that humans have invented similar technologies around the world almost simultaneously, and in some cases, this must have happened. However, the simplest explanation for the available archaeological data is that instead of reinventing technology, many advances were made only once and then expanded. After all, the assumption of fewer innovations requires fewer assumptions.

Now, how did technology develop? Prehistoric peoples are unlikely to have traveled long distances in lands inhabited by hostile tribes; Clearly, however, great migrations occurred over generations. Thus, African humans probably did not encounter Neanderthals in Europe, or vice versa. Instead, it was technology and ideas that passed from one group to another, connecting this large chain of modern wise men in southern Africa with ancient humans in North and East Africa and Neanderthals in Europe.

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Conflict could lead to technology transfer through theft or seizure of tools and weapons. Native Americans, for example, adopted Spanish horses.

It is also possible that people have traded most of the technology; Because this approach has been easier and safer. Even today, hunters of modern collectors who have no money continue to trade. For example, some Tanzanian indigenous hunter-gatherer groups give honey to neighboring tribes instead of the iron arrowheads they make.

Archaeological evidence shows that such a trade is ancient. Beads made from ostrich egg shells from South Africa dating back 30,000 years have been found more than 300 km from where they were made. 200,000 to 300,000 years ago, ancient wise men in East Africa used obsidian tools obtained 50 to 150 kilometers away; That is, more than the distance that hunters and modern collectors usually travel.

Finally, we must not ignore human forgiveness. Some exchanges may have been just gifts. Undoubtedly, human and prehistoric history has been full of conflicts; But then, as today, the tribes also had peaceful relations: treaties and marriages, friendships. They may have given the technology to their neighbors.

Stone Age Geniuses

The pattern seen here, the single source then the spread of innovations, has another important meaning. Progress may have been heavily dependent on individual individuals rather than the inevitable consequence of larger cultural forces. Consider the bow. This tool is so useful that its invention seems both obvious and inevitable. If this were indeed the case, we would have seen the frequent invention of the bow in various parts of the world; But neither the Native Americans nor the Indigenous peoples of Europe nor Asia invented the bow.

Instead, Bushman (from a South African tribe) seems to have invented the bow bow, and then everyone used it. The hunter’s invention changed the course of human history for the next thousands of years and determined the fate of peoples and empires.

The prehistoric pattern is similar to what we have seen in historical times. Some innovations were created repeatedly and independently; Examples are agriculture, civilization, calendars, pyramids, mathematics, writing and beer. Some inventions may have been so obvious that they appeared unpredictably in response to the needs of the people; But many important innovations, such as wheels, gunpowder, printing presses, stirrups, and compasses, seem to have been invented only once before they became widespread.

Wright brothers first flight

The first flight of the Wright brothers

Likewise, few people like Steve Jobs، Thomas Edison، Nikola Tesla، Wright Brothers، James Watt And Archimedes They played a very important role in advancing technological evolution, which shows that creative people were very influential. Consequently, the possibility of achieving great technological innovation is low. Perhaps the discovery of fire, bayonets, axes or bows was not inevitable, and at that time, only one person could change the course of history with the help of an idea.

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