Special Report

14 Important Inventions That Predate the Wheel

1. Cutting tools
> Earliest known examples: circa 3,000,000 B.C.

Homo habilis, an early human ancestor, invented cutting or stone tools. The process was simple: Take a stone, smash another stone against it to flake off chips leaving a sharpened edge and a tool that could be used for cutting. In a clever twist, later human ancestors attached the cutting tool to a shaft for easier handling.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

2. Art
> Earliest known examples: circa 100,000 B.C.

When we think of ancient art, we think of cave paintings like the ones dating back 40,000 years or more that were found in Europe. One of the discoveries included a depiction of three feral pigs in a cafe on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi that has been dated at 45,500 years of age. But shells that might have been used as paint pots and the remains of red ochre and yellow dyes dating back to around 100,000 B.C. have been found in a cave in South Africa, hinting at our ancestors’ earliest attempts at art.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

3. Bow and arrow
> Earliest known examples: circa 72,000-60,000 B.C.

The first examples of the bow and arrow have been found in South Africa and Sri Lanka. The earliest European examples are much more recent, found in Germany and dated to around 16,000 B.C, The invention played an important role in human development. With a bow and arrow, our ancestors could kill game (or human enemies) from a distance, not risking death from an up-close encounter.

4. Flute
> Earliest known examples: circa 60,000 B.C.

Maybe the Neanderthals weren’t as backward or, well, as Neanderthal as we assume. Apparently, they loved music and invented the earliest flutes around 60,000 B.C. The first one discovered comes from a cave in what is now Slovenia, and was fashioned from the thigh bone of a young cave bear and punctured with four holes.

Source: gokhanilgaz / Getty Images

5. Rope
> Earliest known examples: circa 50,000 B.C.

Not only did Neanderthals invent the flute, they also crafted ropes, weaving fibers from the bark of conifer trees into one long string, which could be used to make nets, bags, or clothing. The first rope was found in a cave in France and is said to be 50,000 years old. A tool for making rope, dating from around 40,000 B.C., was found several years ago in Germany.

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