About 3 million years ago, hominids used stone tools to butcher hippos and scale plants along what are now the shores of Kenya’s Lake Victoria, researchers say.
From the preparation of those activities evidence of hominids using these tools, known as Oldowan tools, for almost 300,000 years, say paleoanthropologist Thomas Plummer from Queen’s College, State University of New York and colleagues. From whence these can be found are the oldest known stone tools.
They place some of the marking techniques found at a Kenyan site called Nyayanga between about 2.6 million and 3 million years old. Of the artifacts that lay in the sedimentary layers, the ones found are probably close to 2.9 million years old, scientists report on Dec. 10. Science.
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So far, the oldest Oldowan tools have been dated to about 2.6 million years ago at an Ethiopian site more than 1,200 kilometers north of Nyayanga (SN: 6/3/19). Excavations at another site in Kenya, called Lomekwi 3, have yielded large, irregularly shaped rocks dating back to about 3.3 million years ago (SN: 5/20/15). But he claims that these finds, which include sharp points, represent the oldest stone tools known.
The similarities of the Nyayanga artifacts found at sites dating as recently as about 1.7 million years ago “support the long trajectory of Oldowan technology in the early stages of human development,” says archaeologist Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo of Rice University in Houston and Alcalá University of Madrid. He did not participate in the new study.
The skeletal remains of at least three hippos have been unearthed alongside a total of 56 stone artifacts in Nyayanga displaying woolly markings, researchers say. Patterns on another 30 stone tools from Nyayanga indicate that they were used to cut, scrape and scrape animal tissues and various plants. And fossil fossils found at Nyayanga show damage by hominids removing flesh with sharp stones and crushing bones with large stones to remove the marrow.
These findings are among the 330 Oldowan artifacts and 1,776 animal bones excavated at Nyayanga from 2015 to 2077. Oldowan included three parts of the ancient tool, round hammers, angular or oval cores and sharp flares. The tools, holding the core in one hand with a hammer held in the other hand, struck the core, breaking it into pieces, which was used to cut or shave.
Whoever made stone tools at a Kenyan site about 3 million years ago “added to a well-balanced diet for hunter-gatherers,” says coauthor Rick Potts, a paleoanthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
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The evolutionary identity of the ancient Nyayanga instruments remains a mystery. Plummer’s group had two large, pin-shaped molars Paranthropus, a large-bitten, small hominid line that inhabited parts of eastern and southern Africa up to 1 million years ago. Nyayanga teeth are the oldest known Paranthropus of fossils
But there is no way to confirm it Paranthropus newly recovered stone tools were made and used. The individuals who died at Nyayanga and left their teeth behind were not necessarily part of the circles that involved the hippos there, says Domínguez-Rodrigo.
partners Man the genus appeared in East Africa as early as around 2.8 million years ago and could have made Oldowan Nyayanga tools, says archaeologist Sileshi Semaw of the National Research Center for Human Evolution in Burgos, Spain.SN: 3/4/15). But Paranthropus Jasmine cannot be a toolmaker. A great male Paranthropus A skull discovered in 1959, dubbed the Nutcracker man, is near Oldowan artifacts dated to 1.89 million years ago, says Semaw, who was not part of Plummer’s group.SN: 3/3/20).
Previous discoveries have indicated that Oldowan toolmakers eventually occupied much of Africa, Asia, and Europe, either through the spread of media groups or through independent discoveries.
The findings at Nyayanga agree with the current consensus that stone tools must have begun shortly after hominids developed substantially smaller canine teeth about 5 million years ago, says archaeologist John Shea of Stony Brook University in New York, who was not involved in the new study. Stone tools were once used by large canines, including splitting carcasses for prey, mashing vegetables and helping humans communicate anger or dominance over others, Shea suspects.
If this timeline tool is true, then even Australopithecus afarensisknown as the famous partial skeleton of Lucius, stone tools may have been manufactured and used by about 3.4 million years ago (SN: 8/11/10).
Any way you slice it, the Oldowan finds at Nyayanga now provide the first documented stone tools.
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