Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

2.4m-year-old tools found in Algeria

Strongest evidence of early humans butchering animals discovered in north Africa Research: Oldest stone artifacts and cutmarked bones in North Africa contemporary with archaeological materials in East Africa —
Kristen Harrington | 02 December, 2018, 04:31

An worldwide team led by professor Mohamed Sahnouni and including scientists from Algeria, Spain, France and Australia, published their work on Friday. Either this proves there was a rapid dissemination of stone tools from East Africa to places outside the area or it shows that early hominins developed the use of stone tools in multiple locations independently - a conclusion that is not entirely inconsistent with previous studies suggesting hominids migrated further and earlier than conventional theories put forward.

Researchers carried out excavation at Ain Boucherit archaeological sites in Ain Hanech region in Algeria, and discovered stone artifacts as well as animal bones with cut marks (created by stone tools) with an estimated chronology of 2.4 and 1.9 million years.

East Africa is widely considered to be the birthplace of stone tool use by our ancient hominin ancestors - the earliest examples of which (Oldowan stone tools) date as far back as about 2.6 million years ago.

Be it as it may, the discovery of 2.4-million-year-old tools in North Africa might rewrite the human evolution story as these remnants are by 200,000 years older than the tools previously unearthed in East Africa. Such implements appear to have spread from East Africa earlier than scientists first thought.

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These Oldowan stone artifacts (and those found later) display distinctive markings, or flakes, that give the tools a sharp edge that can be used for cutting.

The study reports the discovery of some 250 primitive tools and 296 animal bones from a site called Ain Boucherit - some 300 kilometers (190 miles) east of the capital, Algiers. "Actually, the whole of Africa was the Cradle of Humankind".

The bones came from animals including the ancestors of crocodiles, elephants and hippopotamuses.

'Not clear at this time whether or not they hunted, but the evidence clearly showed that they were successfully competing with carnivores for meat and enjoyed first access to animal carcasses, ' Caceres says. About two dozen animal bones have cut marks that show they were skinned, defleshed, or pounded for marrow. However no human remains were found, so scientists do not know the details about the individuals present. According to researchers, these tools were made of flint and limestone, and were given the shapes of choppers, subspheroids, and polyhedral.

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At this moment, the most important question is who made the Ain Boucherit stone tools.

"Based on the potential of Ain Boucherit and the adjacent sedimentary basins, we suggest that hominin fossils and Oldowan artifacts as old as those documented in East Africa could be discovered in North Africa as well".

The archaeologists behind that project said their finds suggested that early humans moved out from East Africa and into what is now Asia.

"Future research will focus on searching for human fossils in the nearby Miocene and Plio-Pleistocene deposits, looking for the tool-makers and even older stone tools", said Sahnouni.

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