Ancient tools show how humans adapted to rainforests

The objects were found in a cave in Sri Lanka and include the oldest known bow-and-arrow technology outside Africa, dating back to 48,000 years ago.


Red ochre along with shell beads were discovered at the early rainforest site of Fa-Hien Lena located in the rainforests of Sri Lanka. The earliest tools from the site, such as bone arrowheads, are as old as 48,000 years.

At a jungle-covered cave site in southwestern Sri Lanka, archaeologists have found a remarkable collection of ancient objects, including tools that they believe are among the oldest survival gear humans used in rainforests.

The artifacts range in age from 48,000 to 4,000 years old and include 130 bone arrow tips—the oldest arrow tips found outside of Africa—as well as 29 bone tools for making bags or clothing and a handful of ornamental beads. Archaeologists discovered the objects as they excavated the cave and believe they correspond to four distinct phases of human habitation of the site, with arrowheads and awl-like tools first appearing in the earliest phase. Thirty items from the site have also been dated using radiocarbon technology, allowing researchers to create a timeline and see how the tools grew more sophisticated over the centuries.

“Most of these tools were made out of monkey bone, and many of them appear to have been carefully shaped into arrowheads,” says archeologist Michelle Langley of Griffith University in Australia, who lead the new research published in the journal Science Advances. “They are...

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