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in creating new colloidal building blocks6, and it seems likely that many of these could be synchronized when placed in time-dependent fields or exposed to forces that dissipate energy (shear flow). This could open the way to colloidal assemblies relevant to materials science and engineering, including structures that are useful for fluid transport. Such behaviour can be seen in biophysical contexts — for example, the synchronous motion of oscillating organs such as flagella is known to be crucial for the self-propulsion of cells7. Another innovative possibility arising from Yan and colleagues’ work is the idea that the dynamics of a colloidal system could be manipulated to form specific assemblies at will. This deliberate selection could perhaps be facilitated using ideas from control theory — a well-established framework in mathematics and engineering for manipulating the dynamics of nonlinear systems to obtain desired outputs or to stabilize specific states. Finally, it would be interesting to explore
PAL A EOANTHRO PO LO GY
how studies of nonlinear systems could profit from the development of analogous physical systems by materials scientists. For instance, Yan and collaborators’ magnetic suspension can be broadly viewed as a network involving non-local coupling of particles. Such networks have been predicted8 to spontaneously form ‘chimaera’ states (which contain domains exhibiting synchronized dynamics and others that have desynchronized dynamics). These states have been experimentally realized only recently in optical9 and chemical systems10. An intriguing question, therefore, is whether Yan and co-workers’ magnetic Janus colloids also form chimaera states. If such routes of research are productive, colloidal magnetic suspensions could become model systems for nonlinear behaviour, similar to their well-established role for proving concepts from equilibrium statistical physics11. ■ Sabine H. L. Klapp is at the Institut für Theoretische Physik, Technische Universität
Berlin, 10623 Berlin, Germany. e-mail: email@example.com
1. Yan, J., Bloom, M., Bae, S.-C., Luijten, E. & Granick, S. Nature 491, 578–581 (2012). 2. Pikovsky, A., Rosenblum, M. & Kurths, J. Synchronization: A Universal Concept in Nonlinear Science (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001). 3. Kuramoto, Y. in International Symposium on Mathematical Problems in Theoretical Physics (ed. Arakai, H.) 420 (Springer, 1975). 4. Zerrouki, D., Baudry, J., Pine, D., Chaikin, P. & Bibette, J. Nature 455, 380–382 (2008). 5. Velev, O. D. & Gupta, S. Adv. Mater. 21, 1897–1905 (2009). 6. Damasceno, P. F., Engel, M. & Glotzer, S. C. Science 337, 453–457 (2012). 7. Uchida, N. & Golestanian, R. Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 058104 (2011). 8. Abrams, D. M. & Strogatz, S. H. Phys. Rev. Lett. 93, 174102 (2004). 9. Hagerstrom, A. M. et al. Nature Phys. 8, 658–661 (2012). 10. Tinsley, M. R., Nkomo, S. & Showalter, K. Nature Phys. 8, 662–665 (2012). 11. Gasser, U., Eisenmann, C., Maret, G. & Keim, P. ChemPhysChem 11, 963–970 (2010).
Sharpening the mind
The discovery of stone tools dating to 71,000 years ago at a site in South Africa suggests that the humans making them had developed the capacity for complex thought, and passed this knowledge down the generations. See Letter p .590
S A L LY M C B R E A R T Y
he origin of human consciousness has historically been of interest to philosophers, clerics, linguists, psychologists and anthropologists. In the past decade, it has also become a key issue for archaeologists. Did the modern manner of human thinking emerge early or late in our species’ history, and did it evolve gradually or suddenly? On page 590 of this issue, Brown et al.1 report the discovery of minute stone artefacts that indicate that the bow and arrow was used by people in Africa as early as 71,000 years ago. The manufacture and use of this weaponry system strongly suggest that Homo sapiens had by this time already attained mastery of complex technology and ideas*. Some researchers maintain that there is a disconnect between the appearance of modern human anatomy, which the fossil record shows was present in Africa by 200,000 years (200 kyr) ago2, and the emergence of modern human behaviour, which they argue arose as late as 40 kyr ago3. A proposed explanation for this time lag is that a genetic mutation that affected cognitive capability occurred sometime between 50 and 40 kyr ago, and persisted
*This article and the paper under discussion1 were published online on 7 November 2012.
thereafter3. However, I believe that modern cognitive capacity emerged at the same time as modern anatomy, and that various aspects of human culture arose gradually over the course of subsequent millennia4. Brown and colleagues’ findings go some way to supporting this hypothesis. Africa is vast and has been populated by humans and their hominin ancestors for more than 5 million years, yet only a small fraction of the continent has been explored systematically by archaeologists. The vagaries of the preservation of artefacts and fossils also affect what we can know about the past. So it is not surprising that a complete, continuous record of human activities has not been documented. Even if the record were more complete, it would still be likely that many aspects of past behaviour would be represented patchily or not at all. But some scientists suggest that the gaps in the record are meaningful, reflecting the incomplete development of human cultural capacity3, the isolation of small dispersed prehistoric populations, or the inherent variability of human adaptation. Certain types of evidence believed to represent modern thought are found repeatedly, but at sites scattered across Africa and dating to disparate times. Whether the discontinuities observed in the current record are simply a manifestation
© 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved
of an incomplete record or a real reflection of early H. sapiens’ inability to maintain innovations and communicate them to others remains a topic of debate. Another consideration is that the date for the appearance of modern human behaviour will, of course, depend on the criteria used to recognize it5. Researchers have employed a variety of measures for this purpose, but most recent discussions6 have opted for artefacts with symbolic content, such as art or ornaments, as the defining benchmark for modern cognitive capacity. The reasoning behind this is that the production of such objects requires the ability to manipulate symbols, and this, by extension, indicates the presence of language. Some researchers include the use of pigment as a signal of symbolic thought4,6,7, and the record shows that colouring materials may have been used as early as 200 or 300 kyr ago4,8 (Fig. 1). Body ornaments, such as beads9–12, and carved decorations on everyday objects13,14 are almost universally accepted as evidence of symbolic thought, and such items appear in the African record between 100 and 60 kyr ago. But critics of these claims contend that the link between the material objects and the mode of thought is not well established15, or that the dating of the objects or the context in which they have been found is suspect. Brown and co-authors take a different approach. They argue that complex technology demonstrates the capacity for complex ideas and for transmission of these ideas, and hence for language. This reasoning stems from the authors’ finding of NATURE.COM small stone ‘bladelets’ For more on (microliths) at Pinnacle technology and Point Site 5–6 (PP5–6) early humans, see: in South Africa. The go.nature.com/rrfvgz authors provide superb
2 2 NOV E M B E R 2 0 1 2 | VO L 4 9 1 | NAT U R E | 5 3 1
Diepkloof. The Dawn of Human Culture (Wiley. P. preparing the stone core. McDougall. producing the bladelets. 17. 6. J. bone and sinew. et al. Henshilwood. I. d’Errico. Sweden. fibre and mastic. M. 18. 793–794 (2007). 55. Morocco. F. Lombard. Human populations are thought to have started migrating from Africa shortly after 100 kyr ago20. Brown and colleagues’ report indicates that this capacity was present in South Africa by 71 kyr ago. in The Mesolithic in Europe (ed. 57. although similar damage and residue analysis of the PP5–6 artefacts would enhance our understanding of their use. L. Israel. L. 7. This intact arrow from Rönneholm. 27–47 (2009). Proc. S5–S16 (2010). 1918–1930 (2011). including wood. 43. suggesting that the details of the process were communicated among individuals over many generations. d’Errico. Coolidge. 1997). C. 12. S. 10. Soc. G. Texier. Blombos. W. McBrearty. The incorporation of these stone tools into arrow armatures and the manufacture of the bow and arrow would have required several Figure 2 | A complex point. R. S. 9. & Wynn. Storrs. M. F. Humans making the PP5–6 microliths would have chipped small bladelets from stone that had been carefully selected for its textural properties and heat-treated to improve its workability. Users of the bow and arrow have a significant advantage over people limited to handdelivered weapons in both hunting and interpersonal conflict19. and would have been interrupted by attention to unrelated. Anthropol. J. Evol. The archaeological evidence that is used to determine the time and pattern of the emergence of modern human thought and behaviour comes in the form of the production of microliths (small stone tools). 20.1 now describe microliths from this site. 51. Barham. and possibly also feathers. Hum. Howiesons Poort. Bonsall. B. H.edu 1. K. L. Evol. Zambia. S. I. 3.1. showing that humans inhabiting the area at this time had the advanced skills required to produce these tools. South Africa. 19. 11. & Watts. and Taforalt. L. J. 627–651 (2003). Lond. 2).000-year-old microliths from South Africa. the use of ochre (haematite) as a pigment. it has been suggested16 that microlithic technology was present in central Africa much earlier. Evol. J. These operations would no doubt have taken place over the course of days. H. Cattelain. in Projectile Technology (ed. Trans. Anthropol. Connecticut 06269-2176. Barham. in Cognitive Archaeology and Human Evolution (eds de Beaune. S. If they were armed with the bow and arrow. J. Microliths are also associated with the technology of the South African Howiesons Poort industry. L. Furthermore. C. & Coolidge.) 13–28 (Donald. 16051–16056 (2009). 2002). Klein. S.000 years ago2. Proc. C. they would then have retouched the bladelets into small geometric shapes. Sci USA 107. 453–563 (2000). Rozoy. and trimming the bladelets into their final shape. 39. 15. 200–300 kyr ago. they would have been more than a match for anything or anyone they met. USA. 17. R. and analysis of the impactdamage marks and organic residues on Howiesons Poort microliths from the site of Sibudu supports the idea that they are part of complex projectiles18.-J. Henshilwood. Sci. A. All rights reserved . & Brooks. B 359. Z. Hum. P. F. 2. et al. 43. Kalambo Falls. 13. Nature 449. Forster. C. van Niekerk. F. ■ Sally McBrearty is in the Department of Anthropology. & Stringer. they are part of arrows17 (Fig. T. Howiesons Poort Sibudu Mumba Twin Rivers? Kalambo Falls? Pinnacle Point Enkapune ya Muto Microliths Blombos Incised objects Diepkloof Ochre Kapthurin Formation Twin Rivers? Pinnacle Point Klasies Blombos Blombos Skhul Shell beads 300 250 200 150 Thousands of years ago 100 Taforalt Mumba Enkapune ya Muto 50 0 Figure 1 | Archaeological evidence for modern behaviour in early Homo sapiens.. C. Curr. F. Wynn. Sci. but the context and dating of those finds are uncertain. 4. Brown. A. USA 104.RESEARCH NEWS & VIEWS additional steps involving the collection and modification of a variety of materials. heat treating the stone. 2009). Henshilwood. 585–603 (2002). Curr. Nature 491. Hum.) 117–127 (Cambridge. & Edgar. 404 (2004). 9964–9969 (2007). The ability to hold and manipulate operations and images of objects in memory. Bouzouggar. and Brown et al. USA 106. 255–264 (2004). Anthropol. Sci. their data show that microlithic technology persisted at Pinnacle Point for more than 10 kyr. Wynn. Notably. the decoration of objects with incised motifs. 181–190 (2002). Natl Acad. & Jacobs. Kapthurin Formation. Sibudu. Science 312. Enkapune ya Muto. Dating using the technique of optically stimulated luminescence indicates an age for this material of approximately 70 kyr ago.000 years ago17. 14. et al. When such geometric microliths are found in exceptional prehistoric contexts in which wood is preserved. Archaeol. South Africa. Brown and colleagues’ study may also help us to understand other aspects of the development and spread of modern humans. 590–593 (2012). M. d’Errico. Vanhaeren. described by Brown et al. McBrearty. F. Brown and colleagues spell out the six steps that would have been involved in the manufacture of the PP5–6 microliths: collecting and transporting the lithic raw material.. Curr. Natl Acad. P. shows a method of hafting microliths onto a wooden shaft. 8. which is dated to 60–65 kyr ago (Fig. Science 304. Tanzania. Hum. S. Other site locations are: Twin Rivers. e-mail: mcbrearty@uconn. & Marean. & Fleagle. South Africa. Proc. University of Connecticut. and the creation of shell beads. According to the fossil record. The coastal site of Pinnacle Point in South Africa contains colouring materials4. T. 5. & Coolidge. dating to approximately 9. and to execute goal-directed procedures over space and time. F. S... 1989). G. Knecht. 16.) 5 3 2 | NAT U R E | VO L 4 9 1 | 2 2 NOV E M B E R 2 0 1 2 © 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited. Zambia. Klasies. Phil.-G.. A similar function is proposed for the 71. K. 38. Kenya. (Image adapted from ref. Vanhaeren. more urgent tasks. contextual information in the form of detailed stratigraphic description and finely controlled spatial locations for all objects. T. 1785–1788 (2006).. S. South Africa. 409–420 (2008). Natl Acad. Skhul. Evol. et al. Brown. Mumba. is termed executive function15 and is an essential component of the modern mind. South Africa. gathering wood fuel. J.) 213–240 (Plenum. The presence of microliths at PP5–6 therefore strongly suggests that the inhabitants of this site used the bow and arrow. 44. C. modern human anatomy dates to approximately 200. weeks or months. Kenya. 1). 6180–6185 (2010). J.
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