A Neolithic Industrial Revolution

What was the difference between paleolithic (old stone) tools and neolithic (new stone) tools?

…paleolithic used mainly knapped (chipped) stone tools, as well as bone and wooden tools, the Mesolithic showed an increasing number of microliths (tools made from tiny bits of stone) for things like arrow heads and sickle blades. The neolithic saw the beginning of farming tools to fit the new agricultural lifestyle and in the west the introduction of polished stone axes and pottery…

Why did they start producing polished stone tools? Wouldn’t it have taken one heck of a lot longer to make smooth, polished tools like these?

Why go to all that trouble of grinding and polishing stones?

It’s occurred to me that there might be a very simple explanation for the difference between paleolithic and neolithic tools. And it is that neolithic tools were made from molten rock. They were cast stone tools, made by pouring molten rock into moulds or forms, in exactly the same way we still make cast iron products. And that’s why the tools have smooth and even polished surfaces. Far from taking ages to make, they were made in a matter of minutes or hours.

So how did they melt rock? In furnaces or kilns, using charcoal and bellows?

They probably didn’t have to do that either. They used naturally-occurring molten rock. of the kind that flows in streams from volcanoes in places like Hawaii.

All they had to do was figure out how to get the molten rock to flow into the moulds or formwork in which the rock was to be shaped.  Maybe they did that by diverting the molten streams. Or maybe they dropped buckets into the streams, and hauled out molten rock like water.

It was a stone age industrial revolution which began about 12,000 years ago, which seems to be when smooth, polished neolithic tools started appearing in large numbers, long before copper or bronze or iron tools. And the reason these new cast stone tools appeared first is because molten rock occurs naturally, whereas molten copper or bronze or iron does not.

It would have been an industrial revolution because the new technology allowed them to make all sorts of stone tools very quickly, cheaply, and in large numbers. Neolithic axes probably had very sharp blades, which cut through timber far more quickly than their paleolithic knapped stone predecessors. Life got a lot easier. And the inexpensive and highly effective new stone tools were traded all over the world, because everyone wanted them.

And after they’d started off making simple stone tools, they went on to make ever bigger and better ones. Here’s a neolithic stone sickle from China:

It looks like it could have been made of iron. But apparently it’s a stone sickle. There are also stone vases found in Cairo museums. In the accompanying text it is said:

At least one piece is so flawlessly turned that the entire bowl (about 9″ in diameter, fully hollowed out including an undercut of the 3in opening in the top) balances perfectly (the top rests horizontally when the bowl is placed on a glass shelf) on a round tipped bottom no bigger than the size and shape of the tip of a hen’s egg !

I very much doubt that the porphyry or diorite was turned on a lathe. Only the (wooden?) mould in which the piece was cast would have been made using a lathe.

The same applies to Inca constructions in Peru. I suggest that they also were constructed using molten rock. They probably made these walls in much the same way that concrete walls are made today, by pouring the liquid rock into formwork surrounding them, where they took the shape of adjacent rocks which had already cooled.

And if they could do all this with molten rock, why not also produce large cast stone statues as well, like the colossal red granite statue of the pharaoh Tuthmosis III at right?

So why did they stop making all these cast stone axes and sickles and vases and walls and statues?

Most likely because the volcanoes which had been producing millions of tons of molten rock ceased erupting. They ceased producing streams of molten rock. And with that the entire technology was lost. Within a century or two, nobody could remember how to make these objects.

It won’t have been the first time that technological skills have been lost. The Romans invented concrete, and used it in lots of buildings, but the secret of how to make concrete was lost for many years, until rediscovered just a century or two ago.

In summary, my suggestion: The neolithic era which began 12,000 years ago was the result of the eruption of one or more volcanoes at the end of the last Ice Age, producing large amounts of molten rock, which humans developed methods of shaping in all sorts of ways. This neolithic technology continued to be developed and improved until the volcanoes stopped erupting, at which point the required skills were lost. But they could be recovered, maybe in places like Hawaii, if some way can be found to get molten lava to flow into moulds once again.

A further suggestion: The neolithic period was fully part of the Stone Age. It just saw the production of new kinds of stone tools and artefacts. The discovery of copper and bronze and iron (and everything else) was a subsequent development. So the neolithic civilisation was nowhere near as advanced as today (with aircraft and spaceships).

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16 Responses to A Neolithic Industrial Revolution

  1. RdM says:

    This Dirac method deliberately uses and manipulates negative energy (which is in both Schrodinger’s work and Dirac’s original “theory of everything”) and negative probabilities to do the direct engineering of any physical “thing” or physical process. I call it “precursor” engineering since one is directly engineering the ongoing fierce “virtual particle bubbling state interactions” (the “precursor”) that continually create and sustain any observable physical thing. This science has been secretly developed by the Russians, but until recently it has been ruthlessly confined to their highly secret superweapons project. Recently they have released the scenar-cosmodic little automated hand-held system which will directly heal diseases, and today Soviet doctors are in fact treating their patients with these devices, using the Dirac Sea tickling method to manipulate negative energy and negative probability, and “unhappen” the specific disease or disorder directly. The Russian doctors are experiencing very good results with this methodology.

    Another process is the “cold molding” process that the Soviets have used for decades to mold thick titanium submarine hulls at room temperature, by “tickling” the local vacuum of the titanium so that it contains a lattice-bond-unhappening pattern of negative energy. This “unhappens” the lattice bonds, which simply disappear, so that the titanium metal becomes a liquid at room temperature! Pour it in the molds and wait till the emptied Dirac sea holes are filled with electrons again, and the bonds are automatically restored so that the titanium again becomes a solid — all at room temperature.

    from somewhere within
    http://www.cheniere.org/

  2. RdM says:

    Also:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mere_(weapon)

    Or, these days, use a bandsaw and carve one out …

    What would you use to contain the molten lava, and how would you shape that first ?

  3. Algernon Struthers says:

    The ancients were obviously advanced, given their adroit manipulation of massive tones of stone probably in lumps weighing the same as the entirety of Notre Dame. Knowledge somehow neglected for a while and which appeared to devolve into the primitive manipulation of metals. That manipulation was eventually perfected, until now, because the more refined intricacies of that knowledge has been lost, although current metallurgical knowledge is sufficient for manufacturing.
    But, rock blacksmiths busy at volcanoes. Hmmm, can’t see it, but who knows, maybe the heat, smoke and sulfur is the evolutionary reason for darkened shades of melanin these days. Can’t directly state ‘colour’ in these touchy times, when people can wisely say, and with absolute certainty, that they’re uncertain.
    And that’s a certainty.
    For that reason alone, I think such knowledge is best pretermitted, or in other words, let go, because the world is already dangerous enough. I’m not suggesting technology is bad or ‘I love Luddites,’ no, not I. The problem is the people who’d use it, and although we’re uncertain about many things, we’re not uncertain about that.

    • Rose says:

      In those days they believed that everything was possible through magic or prayer, now we don’t. Still, even with our narrow beliefs we’ve managed to send people into space and create many everyday wonders, that when we don’t need to do them any more and we lose the skills, will turn back into myths and legends or strange forgotten artifacts that newer generations don’t understand.

      I’m still reeling with the knowledge that standing stones can be moved by slithering them over piles of seaweed.
      http://brodgar.co.uk/2016/07/10/how-do-you-move-a-standing-stone/

      Apart from which, if you are making something useful, isn’t it worth taking the time to make it beautiful too? Let’s not forget that if you are taking hours to make something by hand, you leave a little piece of you in it too.

      • Algernon Struthers says:

        Pretty much as you say indirectly, the reality of “magic and prayer” are lost among myths and legends. Seaweed is surely terrific for moving small experimental rocks, weighing not even a ton, but big rocks are rather more crushing, although seaweed was probably plentiful in ancient Egypt and other such sites. In contrast stark, today’s efforts uncovered by posterity will be the detritus of miles and miles of rubbish. The moon, another potential dumping ground.
        There was Arthur, Merlin and many more, the misunderstood of lore. Today there are the genuinely curious, but mainly it’s pretenders whose fun, fun works can be found in endless aisles of detritus, soon to join the miles of rubbish, if not this week, then next, or the following year.
        Sad it is that the so-called, ‘sciences’ didn’t try and understand what their ancients parents were up to, rather than child-like, presume they were halfwits of diminutive capacity. Not that this negates for an instant the marvels of legend, even history, it only means that their wonders remain hidden, although this being the same world, it means that they’re in plain sight, so that Frank pleases us with his pondering of the elusive art of the massive rocks.

        • Algernon Struthers says:

          Groan, my apologies Rose, for the rant. Loony left blood still gallivants through my sorry veins. I must clarify, if not for you, then just for myself, me presuming you’d know what I mean, and if you don’t, knickers, simply isn’t good enough. At best, it’s my bad manners.
          Categories I meant, inasmuch there was the past, and then now. Clear as mud, but I’m trying!
          I mean, even in recent history, many fortunes where gladly thrown at fabulous feats of architecture, unequaled even today, when back then they were surrounded by a primitive world of industry. Today costs are a primary consideration. The need for gargoyles and fancy arches today is innately considered frippery in favour of counting-the-cost, so that most new churches are boxes with seats.
          They had faith and such, yes, which also differed. Pruning that back further, it reveals core reasons and motivations compared to those instilled in us. For example, Feminists impute that women were oppressed – so for thousands of years women stupidly took it with a smile? Well no, women viewed themselves differently. Core reasons differed.
          Considering the site of a potential cathedral, what went through those minds? Obviously perhaps, not what would go through our minds. Not cost, but the potential glorification of the humble world of mankind to somehow equal the majesty of the art of the earth; of nature, and all that they called God. Be-that-as-it-may, true or false, their perception differed because of their reasons, just as the government views orphans as a cost, whereas individuals watching the eyes of those children, may well want to weep.
          Core motivations will result in seemingly endless differences, such as artistic majesty vs a box with seats, and the coldness of cost vs the lives of children. Different motivations, similar to “magic and prayer,” motivations whose meanings are lost in time.
          Apologies again. I hope that makes more sense!

  4. waltc says:

    OT: JOE L
    I answered your yesterday’s question on yesterday’s thread

  5. garyk30 says:

    If those people were so skilled; how come they:
    Cooked over open fires instead of a proper stove
    Lived in caves instead of a proper dwelling
    Wore loose animal skins instead of making reasonable clothes

  6. smokingscot says:

    I don’t know about statues and vases. What I do know is weapons and slaves.

    If your life depends on a weapon to eat, or to protect yourself against humans or inquisitive animals, then you’d want to make sure it’s at its optimum. I’ve watched gun owners oil their equipment to the point they begin to shine. Knife owners will hone their blade until it’s razor sharp and anything with wood, such as a harpoon, they’ll massage it with oil so it’s supple and can take immersion in water.

    Watch the primitives in the Amazon and the care they take to make arrow shafts dead straight, then the flight feathers, they have to be just right. Mostly they use a wood that’s strong enough to take a lethal point.

    So I see no hassle with polished clubs and given they had no form of canned entertainment, it’d suit them to keep occupied honing various bits of kit.

    Then there are slaves. The Inca were awful good at capturing people and making them do their bidding. I have no idea if that’s how they produced the monuments that still puzzle us, however it’s been tried by several research teams and while it takes time, it is perfectly feasible to manipulate a hunk of stone within a fortnight.

    As to gathering lava, then the end result would be quite black – and even now we do not have the ability to collect the stuff.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Granite is grey. So I would expect that when it’s melted and cooled again, it would return to being grey. What would be darker would be basalt, and even that isn’t jet black.

  7. Frank Davis says:

    A question asked:

    Q: Say a block of marble is used to sculpt a statue. Most of the stone is chipped away and is effectively useless. Instead of it being tossed, can it perhaps be melted back down into bricks?

    A: Rocks like Granite, with large crystal sizes, are the result of VERY slow cooling and crystallization. So although in theory you could remelt and recrystallize this kind of rock, you’d probably need hundreds or thousands of years to do it.

    Basalt, a fine grained igneous rock, would be fine. It would still need quite a long cool down time.

    Obsidian and volcanic glass would be very easy – by definition, this cools quickly in an eruption. No problem recycling, apart from the heat needed

    Now the problems..

    Sandstone (and other sedimentary rocks) – you could not melt these and re-form them, obviously. You could grind them down to sand grains, THEN try to press them back together with the appropriate cement (silica or carbonate, depending on the original rock). This would take pressure and quite a bit of time.

    Slate Now, not only would you have to grind this down, but also slightly recrystallize this under pressure at a few hundred degrees, with more pressure in the direction normal to the cleavage. For a long time.

    Marble You can’t melt marble at surface pressures, it decomposes into calcium oxide and CO2. If you had a very high pressure crucible and a means of heating it, you could melt marble and re-crystallize it.

    Blueschist This is getting a bit hard. You need a pressure equivalent to about 20km of rock, and a temperature about 400 degrees C.

    Eclogite A type of very high grade metamorphic rock. 45km depth and c. 700 degrees C. For years, to get the crystal size.

    So… unless you specifically want volcanic glasses to work with, it would probably be a lot easier to just buy some more. Rocks take a long time to form, and usually under conditions of heat and pressure that are not cheap to reproduce.

  8. Frank Davis says:

    melting and cooling basalt lava

    basalt pipes and tiles

    pouring liquid basalt onto ice

  9. DP says:

    Dear Mr Davis

    A polished axe works better than a rough one, which tends to stick in the cut. Time spent polishing will be returned several-fold in increased productivity from the polished axe.

    Or at least that’s the theory. I found something about it on the web, but my laptop reset itself and I’ve lost the will to search again.

    Hope this helps.

    @ Rose says: August 16, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    Re: how to move a standing stone. A TV programme I watched some time ago reckoned that the Egyptians moved their pyramid blocks by wetting the sand in front of the stone, thereby making it both firmer (sea washed sand cf dry sand on a beach) and lubricated, so making it easier to drag the stone over it.

    https://phys.org/news/2014-04-ancient-egyptians-pyramid-stones-sand.html

    DP

    • Frank Davis says:

      A polished axe works better than a rough one, which tends to stick in the cut.

      That makes sense.

      But why did they only start polishing axes 12,000 years ago, when they’d been using rough, knapped tools for hundreds of thousands of years beforehand?

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