Archaeology / Paleolithic Age / Hokkaido

Place excavated:Found at Oketo Azumi Site, Hokkaidō

Paleolithic period, 18,000 BC




Microblades are representative stone implements from the Paleolithic period. The origin of these small stone tools traces back to the use of animal bones or horns for spear points. Grooves would be scored in the sides of the points, with several microblades then fitted inside. If one microblade broke off, it could be replaced by another, just like how one might replace the blades of a razor nowadays. These microblades were made of obsidian, also known as nature's glass. With fractures sharp enough to cut the hand, this was ideal spear material. However, fairly advanced skills were needed to shape the obsidian into long, straight chips. One large piece of obsidian could be used to make over 100 microblades.

Until the invention of microblades, it was common to attach knife-like tools to the tips of spears, but if the blade chipped or broke off, the whole spear essentially had to be rebuilt.

Microblade spears were considerably easier to use, though. Microblades could be replaced easily, so the spears could be used for longer. Hunting efficiency was a life-or-death issue for people at that time, so this innovation helped to make life less precarious. These tiny stone fragments are a crystallization of human ingenuity and craftsmanship.

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