Discovery Of World’s Oldest Stone Tools Overturns Traditional View Of Early Humans

Archaeologists working in northwestern Kenya say they’ve unearthed the world’s oldest stone tools yet — and the discovery has thrown them for a loop.

Dating back 3.3 million years, the artifacts push back the archaeological record of tool technology by a staggering 700,000 years. That suggests tools were being fashioned even before the emergence of Homo — the genus to which Neanderthals and modern humans belong (scroll down for photos).

“This discovery is important because the traditional view for decades was that the earliest stone tools were made by the first members of Homo, both dating to around 2.4 to 2.6 million years ago,” Dr. Sonia Harmand, an archaeologist at Stony Brook University and the lead researcher, told The Huffington Post in an email. “The idea was that our lineage alone took the cognitive leap of hitting stones together to strike off sharp flakes and that this was the foundation of our evolutionary success.”

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A special feeling. The first tools were discovered by chance in July 2011 during an archaeological expedition in the Nachukui Formation, a rocky outcrop in the desert badlands on the west bank of Kenya’s Lake Turkana. The researchers said they had strayed into an area off their intended path, according to a written statement issued by The Earth Institute at Columbia University, but “could feel that something was special about this particular place. By teatime, local Turkana tribesman Sammy Lokorodi had helped [us] spot what [we] had come searching for.”

By the end of their excavation, the team had found 149 artifacts at the site, including sharp-edged tools measuring six inches in length and weighing six-and-a-half pounds, as well as flakes that were struck off from the tools and rocks that could have served as anvils.

The researchers dated the artifacts by —> Read More