We, humans, like to think of ourselves as master tool builders- and certainly, as we stand at the threshold of the wonders of the 21st century, we have much to be proud of. But we are really the heritors of a long tradition of life, in all its forms, fashioning tools from lifeless materials born long ago in the hearts of massive stars. So here’s a brief history of technology, from 4 billion years ago to the beginnings of the modern age.
4 Billion Years Ago
Primitive metabolic assemblages begin to use nucleic acids as biological software storage and transmission system.
2 Billion Years Ago
Eukaryotes evolve- a new form of life in which separate organismal domains cooperate as ‘living tools.’
570 Million Years Ago
First organisms to use mineralized shells appear.
500 Million Years Ago
Giant sea scorpions use empty shells as ‘aerolungs’ to move onto land.
3.3 Million Years Ago
Ancient hominins on the shores of Lake Turkana begin using Oldowan stone tools
1.7 Million Years Ago
Later species of hominins begin experimenting with the Acheulean toolmaking technique- typically large, bifacial handaxes
1.5 Million Years Ago
Possible date of earliest fire used by East African hominins (Homo ergaster). Cooking, in turn, spurs the further growth of cognitive evolution
500,000 Years Ago
Oldest known fabricated human structure- the ‘Chichibu Shelter’ in Japan, likely a temporary hut constructed by Homo erectus populations.
400,000 Years Ago
The ’Schöningen Spears’ in Germany- first known wooden spears.
100,000- 70,000 Years Ago
Use of some of the earliest abstract symbols and art, from material found in Blombos Cave in South Africa.