Be Careful What You Say About “Stone Age” People
When a conversation turns to Stone Age people, we tend to think of technologically clueless cave-dwellers. On the other hand, the Bible describes the first people as creative city-dwellers.
Scientists had always assumed that four Neolithic stone axe blades discovered in China had been polished smooth with quartz. However, one researcher decided to study the axe heads in more detail. As he did so, he marveled at the high degree of polish on the axe surfaces and noted that these surfaces were as smooth as the silicon wafers on which we etch electronic circuits. The axe blades turned out to be made of corundum – a form of aluminum oxide, the second hardest mineral on earth. Quartz was far too soft to have polished these axes! Only diamond could do the job. It turns out that there are two known diamond deposits within 200 miles of where the axes were found. To prove his theory, he cut some material from one of the axes and polished it with three different materials, including diamond. Careful measurements by an atomic force microscope showed that only diamond could duplicate the smooth surface of the axes.
These axes show that so-called Stone Age man had a sophisticated knowledge of materials, even using diamond to polish the second-hardest material on Earth – exactly what might be expected of creative city-dwellers.