Saturday, February 27, 2010

2.5 Million B.C.

"... he [Solon] asked the priests who were most skilful in such matters, about antiquity, and made the discovery that neither he nor any other Hellene knew anything worth mentioning about the times of old." -- Plato, philosopher, Critias, 360 B.C.

"A long time ago...." -- George Lucas, film producer, Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope, May 25th 1977

"It is important to understand this if we are to understand how a science or technology may rise and fall with a civilization, why the destruction of a center could lead to the almost instant evaporation or disappearance of centuries of knowledge and technical skills. Thus a nuclear war could shatter the primary centers of twentieth-century technology in a matter of days. The survivors on the periphery, although they would remember the aeroplanes and the television sets, the robots and the computers, the space machines now circling our solar system, would not be able for centuries to reproduce that technology. Apart from the almost wholesale slaughter of the technocratic class, the interconnection between those shattered centers and the equally critical interdependency between the centers and their peripheries, would be gone forever. It would be like the strands of a web which once stretched across the world, left torn and dangling in a void. A dark age would certainly follow." -- Ivan Van Sertima, historian, 'The Lost Sciences of Africa: An Overview', Blacks In Science: Ancient and Modern, Volume 5, Issues 1-2, 1983

"Fully one third of the [sf] stories in these issues are set in the past...." -- Judith Berman, author, Science Fiction Without the Future, The New York Review of Science Fiction, Volume 13, Number 9, Pages 1, 6-8, May 2001

"... something I’ve been thinking about for a long time: the extent to which fantasy and science fiction (both closely tied to gaming culture) are indebted to history [The Mahabharata, The Bible, The Iliad, The History, The Timaeus, The Statesman, The Republic, True Histories, etc.] for both substance and narrative structure and style—that is, the extent to which fantasy and sci-fi are written as history." -- Tom Scheinfeldt, historian, A Long Time Ago In a Galaxy Far Far Away, Apr 2006

"... events related in the stories need not be in our future." -- Robert Gibson, author, Science Fiction Future Histories: Criteria For Success, 2008

"This whole 'I want my science fiction to be set in the future,' thing isn’t something I can rationalize or support very well." -- Tycho Garen, writer, Some Future in Your Science Fiction, February 12th 2010

"Going back 30,000 years requires you to speculate because we really don't have much an idea what was going on." -- David Morrison, archaeologist, February 26th 2010

Schuster, A.M.H., World's Oldest Stone Tools, Archaeology, Volume 50, Number 2, Mar/Apr 1997

More than 2,600 sharp-edged flakes, flake fragments, and cores (cobbles from which flakes have been removed), found in the fine-grained sediments of a dry riverbed in the Afar region of Ethiopia, have been dated to between 2.52 and 2.60 million years ago, pushing back by more than 150,000 years the known date at which humans were making stone tools.

Excavated between 1992 and 1994 by Rutgers University paleoanthropologists Sileshi Semaw and John W.K. Harris at three sites along the Gona River, the artifacts are similar in type to the 1.8-million-year-old tools found by Mary Leakey at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, in the 1960s. Known as Oldowan, the tool type has been found at other East African sites: Omo in southern Ethiopia, Lokalalei in northern Kenya, and Hadar, five miles east of the Gona River study area. Until now the oldest known examples were dated to 2.3 to 2.4 million years ago.

Because no hominid remains were found in association with the tools and they predate the oldest known remains of the genus Homo (see ARCHAEOLOGY, January/February 1997), the find has left the identity of the makers open to speculation. Semaw and his team will return to the field later this year in hopes of answering this question.

Using the argon/argon dating method on a layer of volcanic ash nearly seven feet above the tool-bearing deposit, Paul Renne of the Berkeley Geochronology Center determined that the Gona artifact assemblage was more than 2.52 million years old. A maximum date of 2.6 million years ago was obtained for mineral-rich sediments just below the artifacts using paleomagnetic dating.

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