Sunday. With cavemen.

I have decided to change our PEP (personal education plan) because Mr. D. is complaining that he is bored.  Of all things.  It doesn’t surprise me that what we have been trying has not engaged him but the battle, now, is finding what will.

We’ll be dabbling in the Story of the World (Wise) Ancient Times and have the activity book to give us lots of hands-on time; at the same time, we have Ancient Science (Jim Wiese) and have made a small start on that.  We are going to continue with Life of Fred‘s elementary series and the school is providing a unit on Structures which we will expand by adding Engineering is Elementary (Museum of Boston) and their book on Bridges.  That should keep him happy for a while (please).

Today we tackled one of the earliest ‘science’ experiments, giving hands-on experience of what daily life was like in the Stone Age.  Mr. D. and his father took a 1.25cm diameter piece of dowel, about 90 cm long, and tried pushing it into a fairly soft and grassy area of our yard. They managed to get this primitive tool into the ground by 5cm.  Dad then sharpened the point of the stick, somewhat, and they tried again.  This way they were able to penetrate up to 10cm deep; perfectly fine depth for digging up some root vegetables but not for anything requiring a deep anchoring.  Using a flat stone found at the beach as a mallet, they were able to penetrate 60cm deep!

Whilst human life is thought to date to approximately 4 million years ago, the use of stone tools is generally dated to about 2.4 million years ago.  Very crude stone tools were used for scrapping and hammering; these simple tools (and machines if you count the wedge) were what separated humans from other animals.  We had invented technology!  Not quite a smart phone but a big leap forward.  The act of sharpening the point of a stick took humankind a few thousand years to perfect.

When the dowel is pushed in by hand, the force (or power) is spread over the thickness of the dowel.  When the dowel is sharpened, the same amount of force gets concentrated in the point, making it easier to penetrate the ground.  A pointed stick would definitely make it easier and faster to dig up dinner!

It took another 1.1 million years to progress to the hand axe (sharpened stones).  Invention and creation were slower because so much energy was expended just staying alive.  By the end of the Neolithic period, we were able to make secondary tools (sewing needles, fishhooks) out of wood and antlers, using the first primitive tools.

Mr. D. drew a picture of a ‘caveman’ hammering in a stick, using a big, flat, rock.  The caveman had many bulging muscles drawn on because Mr. D. figured you would have been physically fit to survive!

Unfortunately, all this wonderful work we’ve done today:  going to the beach to search for appropriate rocks, marking up the measurements on the dowel, doing the experiment, taking photos, drawing pictures, discussing all the results and their implications has taken a grand total of approximately 30 minutes.  Less time than it has taken me to type up this post (with interruptions, I’m not that slow).  Wonder how I can slow my son down to caveman speeds?  I think he would have been a very successful stone age dude!


The action shots:


Small gainFirst tryMarking and measuringSharpened

On his way to 60 cm penetration!

On his way to 60 cm penetration!

Using tools


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