The authentic Flintstones

Feb 01, 2019, 12:58 PM

This is a narrative about archaeologists rewriting dates of early human migration to India, stone-tool butcherers and a deerskin-clad hunter

Imagine being shipwrecked and solitary on an island. I know that sounds like a cliched introduction to a reality show. But hang on to that that driftwood.

Archaeologist Akhilesh Kumar flaking a quartzite stone to make a handaxe — a stone tool that is often referred to as the Swiss Army knife of ancient man. Stone-tool experiments such as these have revealed that archaic man came to India much earlier than previously assumed.

Being alone in the wild is certainly a terrifying idea for screen-staring city-slickers because most of us don’t even possess mildly practical skills to survive like Robinson Crusoe.

But for tool-making archaeologists, the real McCoys with Sherlockian skills, a castaway’s life is clearly, elementary. Meet the authentic Flintstones!

This is a story about reliving the past. A narrative about archaeologists rewriting dates of early human migration to India, new-age stone-tool butcherers and a deerskin-clad hunter.


A map of Attirampakkam, an archaeological site close to the south Indian city of Chennai that has been studied for more than a century.
Archaeologist Akhilesh Kumar knapping -- chipping stones to make tools. Akhilesh and Shanti Pappu consider the chips falling off a stone-tool experiment to be critical clues to the past.
The process of knapping involves chipping a stone to create sharp edges and sometimes a symmetrical, aesthetic tool like the handaxe. (Illustration inspired by Encyclopedia Brittanica)
The flakes of a stone tool could serve as a sharp blade or help piece the jigsaw puzzle of a missing tool.
Handaxes are considered as early artistic creations of our ancestors. In the foreground is one made by Akhilesh, a copy of the prehistoric tool in the background that was found in Attirampakkam.
Some of the oldest stone artifacts, crude stone tools, were found in the Olduvai gorge in Tanzania.
Copy of Copy of Handaxes and cleavers, palaeolithic man's Swiss Army knives.
Copy of Copy of Kathy Schick cutting through an elephant hide. (Picture courtesy: Kathy Schick)