Editorial February 2009 Issue

Lessons from the World’s Cruelest Tool

Sometime around 2.4 million years ago, the first hammer was created. It may have been used to crack a piece of bone for supper or deliver the death knell to a rival suitor, but my guess is that it probably ended up smashing its discovererís digits. After so many bruised knuckles, some bright cave-dweller decided to lash a short piece of wood to the mass, allowing him to increase the velocity of the head and deliver a more powerful blow without getting hurt. Seaside dwellers had a natural hammer at their disposal: A large whelk washed by the surf eventually assumes a hammer-like form. If you explore the shell middens of Southwest Florida, you can find polished implements dating back 3,000 years. This basic design served humans well, at least until hardwood nails entered the scene, putting thumbs in the line of fire.

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