Monday, September 05, 2011

Oldest Tools Pushed Back to 1.7+ Million Years

From the NYT via Boing Boing comes evidence of the earliest tool manufacture. From the science journal Nature, tools from Kenya that were dated to about 1.7 million years ago. This is the earliest found so far. Previous estimates ranged from 1.4 million to 1.6 million years ago.

A skull belonging to Homo erectus was excavated last year from the same sediment level suggesting that this species of pre-humans was responsible for the tool manufacture.

What makes the find even more amazing is the type of tools uncovered. The oval and pear-shaped hand tools are refer to as Acheulean technology. Tools that were sophisticated displayed signs of symmetry, uniformity and planning - a specialty of early humans.

The strata from which these tool types were uncovered in, (1.7 million years ago) often contain artifacts from an earlier and simpler technology or Oldowan artifacts which were tools mainly made up of sharp stone flakes and roughly worked rock cores. Finding the two tool types side by side was a bit unsettling, but technologies that were not mutually exclusive.

What has not been reasoned out yet is whether the technology was imported from somewhere else or originated from Oldowan toolmakers in the area.

Wiki article on Acheulean NYT article

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