Commentary and links on what I found interesting to read this week.
1. Middle Stone Age Tools 320k years old. Homo erectus (our ancestors) usedAscheulean stone hand axes. These are big pear shaped rocks for cutting and pounding. Whereas Homo sapiens used more advanced stone tools, termed Middle Stone Age. These include spear tips, scrapers, awls, etc. So the news this week is a paper Long-distance stone transport and pigment use in the earliest Middle Stone Age, pushing back the date of Middle State Age tools to 320k years ago. That's 30k years earlier than previously known. These tools were also associated with pigment use, and transport of obsidian 100 km away, which implies trade networks. The main point is this new paper adds more support for a major shift in how we think humans evolved. The old view: Homo sapiens evolved modern physical form first, then only became modern behaviorally roughly 100-200k years later. See the wikipedia page behavioral modernity. Newer rising view (not yet reflected in wikipedia): Homo sapiens evolved out of the box with modern behaviors, or they followed very closely.  Link to excellent Ed Yong piece.
Interesting news, at least for me. Adam Smith was interested in the human past but without modern data. He speculated in his use of the four-phase hypothesis: savagery associated with human groups in the Forest; humans into primitive farming and hunting; agriculture and property; truck, barter and exchange; emerging into commerce ('at last'). {Lectures on Jurisprudence, 1762-3).
Those periods are worthy of modern studies with reliable data. Perhaps source for my (last?) book.