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During the Middle Stone Age of Africa, tools take on much smaller dimensions than their earlier Acheulian counterparts and many new forms emerge. From 75,000 to 35,000 years BP, the Aterian Tool Tradition develops concurrent with and later, supersedes the Mousterian Tool Industry in Northwest Africa as well as in several other regions of the continent. The exact dating of the beginning and ending of this technology is unclear and it varies with different regions of Africa. It is believed that the Aterian Tradition dates back to a time in excess of 80,000 years ago but it is widely accepted that by 30,0000 years ago, the Aterian sites were abandoned and the period came to an end.

The Aterian tradition tool-makers derived their technology from the Mousterian Tradition tools and flakes. The Aterian technology uses the levallois and disc core techniques. One can look at the Aterian Tradition as being a "refined" Mousterian technology. The most famous invention of the Aterian tool technology is the development of primitive tanged projectile points and scrapers meant to be hafted. These tanged points represent a milestone in early human cognitive thinking as well as Paleolithic history. The Aterian Tradition is the first known use of an obvious made tang created by any stone tool culture in the world by this time.

An unmistakable knapped tang on Aterian points is proof that these points were hafted on shafts and eventually developed into arrowheads. Some scientist theorize that the bow and arrow was first invented around the time of the Aterian tradition evidenced by the discovery of small tanged points from this same region in North Africa. The Aterian Tradition is also responsible for various scrapers with obvious knapped tangs also intended for hafting the tool onto handles of bone, ivory or wood. Primitive man, in the Aterian Period, sometimes salvaged damaged points to be reworked into tanged scrapers. In other instances, the original concept of the tool was a scraper and no evidence of being a former projectile point can be found.

By the time the Aterian Tool Tradition emerges, stone implements have undergone Man's development by both trial-and-error and cognitive thinking spanning an overall time exceeding one million years.

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