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article imageTools 3.3. million years old found in Kenya, oldest on record

By Marcus Hondro     May 21, 2015 in Science
A discovery of 3.3-million-year-old crude stone tools in Kenya has archeologists rethinking humankind's past. Hominids (that would be us) were thought to have invented tools 2.6 million years ago so the find raises the stature of an earlier relative.
Tools signal the start of conceptual thinking and increased motor skills; not only that but shaping sharp tools by banging rocks upon rocks led to the ability to use the tools to kill and butcher animals, which led to the consumption of more protein.
That in turn lead to bigger brains and more conceptual abilities, and more tools. Eventually it lead us to where we are.
The site these ancient, crude tools were unearthed at, near Lake Turkana in Kenya, was discovered by two anthropologists, Sonia Harmand and Jason Lewis. They published their findings this week in the journal Nature. Their discovery is important as it means hominids were making tools 700,000 years earlier than believed.
The first hominids believed to have used tools was Homo habilis, who lived 2.8 million to 1.5 million years ago, but they have now lost that distinction. These newly discovered users of tools were an earlier, more ape-like hominid that, while related to us, are not part of our homo-sapiens branch of hominid. Their accomplishment is impressive given they were not very well-endowed, Homobrain-wise.
"The tools we have unearthed are the very first fossil traces of techniques bequeathed by our hominid ancestors 3.3 million years ago," Harmand, of Stony Brook University in New York said. "Our discovery also refutes the long-standing theory that Homo habilis was the first maker of tools."
Harmand and Lewis are continuing to work the site. They came upon it quite by accident, having gotten lost while surveying in the area in 2011. Harmand said that when they came upon the site they felt "that something was special about this particular place."
They were soonafter able to begin an excavation. They came upon the tools in a layer of volcanic ash that dated back 3.3. million years, dated by measuring shifts in the Earth's magnetic fields in the minerals found around them and through argon isotopes.
They have 149 artifacts, including rock flakes, rocks fashioned for hammering and stone cores, which are rocks that have been struck hard against a surface to break off flakes.
More about Homo sapiens, hominids, first use of tools
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