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IPFS News Link • Anthropology

Oldest human tools discovered in Africa, dated to 3.3 million years ago


At the annual meeting of the Palaeoanthropology Society in the US this week, researchers announced the discovery of a set of stone tools in Kenya that they think are the oldest ever found. And not just by a little bit - they've been dated to 3.3 million years ago, which makes them 700,000 years older than any other tools ever found.

The implications for this are pretty huge, because they predate the arrival of our genus Homo - thought to be 2.8 million years old - which suggests that ancient, long-gone australopithecines such as 'Lucy' could have been making and using tools long before our genus even existed.

In 2003, an international team of palaeontologists uncovered what was, until recently, the oldest stone tools ever found. Extracted from the site of Gona, in the Afar triangle of Ethiopia's Great Rift Valley, they were dated to 2.6 million years ago, and attributed to the earliest stone tool technology in the archaeological record, known as the Oldowan. 

Between 2.6 and 1.7 million years ago, this technology spread widely throughout eastern Africa and down to southern Africa, and by 1.8 million years ago, early Homo populations had taken it with them to Europe, as evidenced by fossil remains and Oldowan tools found in Dmanisi, Georgia in 2002.