Scientists have unearthed stone tools dating back 3.3 million years in Kenya, making them the oldest artifacts yet to be discovered.
This is a cornerstone for human evolution understanding and for the scientific community who is now in possession of invaluable information that will help to trace back everything known so far.
Many resources and time will be invested in what could be called the rewriting of history, yet it is undoubtedly exciting and rewarding.
Sonia Hartman and Jason Lewis of the Turkana Basin Institute and Rutgers came to discover the world’s oldest artifacts by accident. While wondering of a path in northwestern Kenya in 2011, they saw an area covered with craggy outcrops. Instinctively they looked into it and by the end of 2012’s excavations at Lomekwi 3 they were holding a precious collection of no less than 149 stone tools. These come as stone cores or flakes, as well as edged rocks allegedly used for hammering or cutting.
The revolutionary findings will certainly upturn established theories as the stone artifacts were dated to belong to an era 3.3 million years ago. That pushes back the latest known date by 700,000 years.
Geologist Chris Lepre from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Rutgers University, and who helped date the tools and geological features at the site said in astonishment:
“The whole site’s surprising; it just rewrites the book on a lot of things that we thought were true”.
The discovery is at large discussed in the scientific journal Nature.
It is not known who the creator of such tools was. Researchers suggest that according to evidence previously found on the site, it may be a 3.3 million year old hominin. A skull belonging to a Kenyanthropus platytops was unearther near the same site in 1999. As of yet, nobody knows how this hominin relates to other hominin species. This one in particular predates the earliest Homo by 500,000 years. Either way, the tool maker could have come from this species, from and yet undiscovered Homo or Australopithecus afarensis.
Lead author of the study Sonia Harmand commented that the findings:
“shed light on an unexpected and previously unknown period of hominin behavior and can tell us a lot about cognitive development in our ancestors that we can’t understand from fossils alone”.
And it is indeed revolutionary as until before the discovery of these 149 stone tools it was firmly believed that only a relative of ours, springing from the line that leads to Homo Sapiens could have fostered the capabilities to develop stone tools.
As it stands, an earlier species of homini took the lead. Exciting as the news may be, scientists unanimously approve that by solving one riddle, a bundle of new ones are brought to the light. A relentless effort in understanding human evolution.
Image Source: abc.net.au