Humans 13,000 Years Ago Were Wise Enough to Recycle

By Stephen Messenger, TreeHugger

Prehistoric humans often get a bad rap as club-wielding knuckleheads, lumbering along in their tacky animal skin outfits, avoiding hungry saber-toothed cats and baths. But while that may be mostly true, archeologists say that some of our earliest ancestors were wiser than many nowadays in at least one regard — they knew to recycle.

According to new research from Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution, humans living during the Upper Palaeolithic Age had honed the eco-friendly habit of recycling as far back as 13,000 years ago. Researcher Manuel Vaquero says that discovered stone artifacts from this period show signs of modification, that one tool had been recycled to create an entirely new one.

“In order to identify the recycling, it is necessary to differentiate the two stages of the manipulation sequence of an object: the moment before it is altered and the moment after,” says Vaquero, to Phys Org. “The two are separated by an interval in which the artefact has undergone some form of alteration.”

Stone tools that had been exposed to fire, mostly those with domestic uses, showed the clearest hints of alteration; burnt stones bearing unburned areas seem to evidence an item’s before and after transformation — what it was, and what it was recycled into.

For these prehistoric tool-makers, recycling wasn’t based so much on an eco-minded ideology, but more on convenience and efficiency, among other things:

“It bears economic importance too, since it would have increased the availability of lithic resources, especially during times of scarcity. In addition, it is a relevant factor for interpreting sites because they become not just places to live but also places of resource provision,” states the researcher.

Reusing resources meant that these humans did not have to move around to find raw materials to make their tools, a task that could have taken them far away from camp. “They would simply take an artefact abandoned by those groups who previously inhabited the site.”

It really should come as no surprise that at a time in our history as a species when we were more connected with our natural roots, sustainable practices such as a recycling were second nature. Perhaps we could take a lesson from our great(x650)-grandparents — after all, they knew a thing or two about how to make the most out of the things they used.

And in exchange, we’ll forgive them for the graffiti.



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Sarah M.
Sarah M.3 years ago


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

thanks. i chuckled some. loved it

Nils Lunde

Yeah, todays human ALWAYS think they have make something new, but most of the time (maybe always?) we just make things for the second time :-)

Diana Roth
Diana Roth3 years ago

Thanks for this article.

Christine Stewart

It is important to recycle, even if it isn't always economical because landfills are forever! Where do you suppose all the trash is going when current dumps are filled up? Probably some nice canyon that is home to endangered species...

Colleen Prinssen
Colleen Prinssen3 years ago

waste not. want not

andrew h.
- -.3 years ago


according to sages- we live in a different Yuga

writings in a book

"The yugas describe a cycle of human development which predicts not only highly advanced ages in the future, but indicates they have occurred in the past as well. "

"The cycle of the yugas is profoundly reassuring in our tense and troubling times. Sri Yukteswar offers a vision of our times as a natural process of growth and development – not an apocalyptic powder keg. It is more like the teenage years before one settles into a mature adulthood. The cycle of the yugas also offers a very high vision of our own inner potential – far greater than you find in your average history text book!"

I have not read this book, but i have read Sri Yukteswar' other book-
just a headsup not an endorsement

"The Yugas
Keys to Understanding Our Hidden Past, Emerging Energy Age, and Enlightened Future
by Joseph Selbie & David Steinmetz"

Nimue Pendragon
Nimue Pendragon3 years ago

And we all know how important it is to recycle stone, you just never know when you're going to run out of it. Well somebody had to say it.

John B.
John B.3 years ago

Thanks Molly for posting Mr. Messenger's article. We should make sustainable practices such as a recycling second nature again.

Ajla C.
Past Member 3 years ago

Interesting thanks