Our ancestors created mysterious rock balls, but we don’t know why

One and a half million years ago, our ancestors were very different from us. More like great bipedal apes than modern humans, these ancient hominids had a complex culture, built and used primitive but effective stone tools, and likely came to have highly developed cognitive abilities. Among them is a certain aesthetic pleasure: They may actually have been the first hominids to imprint symmetrical shapes into rock, producing mysterious stone spheres, as a recent study by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found.

The spheres in question have been known to paleontologists for decades, but there are still many doubts about their nature. According to some scientists, this is likely a byproduct of our hominid ancestors’ stone industry. Stone tips are stones used in the production processes of scrapers and knives and which acquire a vaguely spherical shape randomly in the long term.

Another school of thought still believes that these are artifacts that were deliberately produced for mysterious purposes, by flattening a rock with stone blows. To resolve the dispute, Israeli researchers analyzed 150 stone spheres dating back 1.4 million years, found at the Ubeidiya archaeological site in the Jordan Valley. Using a 3D scanner, they analyzed their conformations in detail and concluded that the available evidence points strongly to intentional creation by our ancestors.

The manufacturing process by which ancient stone spheres were created actually made them more “spherical” but not smoother. And this is in contrast to the accidental production associated with the repeated use in making other stone tools. Besides a natural origin: Natural processes can soften stones, but in almost no case do they produce shapes close to spherical.

According to Israeli researchers, stone spheres were therefore produced by hominids for a specific purpose. Which? It is impossible to say: perhaps they served to extract marrow from the bones of their prey, or as primitive pestles, or again as a type of projectile, or as symbolic creations carrying artistic or religious meaning.

But what is certain is that the production of stone spheres meant that our ancestors had very developed cognitive abilities: “They tried to achieve Plato’s ideal of the sphere,” according to the study’s authors. Therefore, they had the manual and mental abilities to plan and carry out such an enterprise. In short, before they discovered the wheel, they had at least invented the sphere.

Source: Today IT