Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Could East Africa Lose Its Crown As 'cradle Of Mankind'?

Stone tool in the Oldowan style) similar to the one found Stone tool in the Oldowan style similar to the one found in Algeria
Elijah Vega | 02 December, 2018, 04:30

Researchers from Algeria, France, Spain and Australia were involved in the project, which involved 25 years of excavations. 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.

The artefacts were discovered in the Algerian city of Setif by a team of worldwide researchers and were unearthed alongside dozens of fossilised animal bones which contained cut marks, as if relics of prehistoric butchers.

Stone tools were found in China earlier this year that dated back 2.12 million years.

Regardless, the long-standing view has been that once hominins, or members of the human family, invented stone tools in east Africa, they didn't travel far with them until 1.8 million years ago (or, more controversially, 2 million years ago, in China) when tools turn up in Algeria, Georgia, and China. Such implements appear to have spread from East Africa earlier than scientists first thought. Surprisingly, the earliest known hominin, dated to 7.0 million years, and the 3.3 million years Australopithecus bahrelghazali, have been discovered in Chad, in the Sahara, 3000 km from the rift valleys in the east of Africa.

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.

Fossils of animals such as pigs, horses and elephants, from very ancient sites, have been used by the paleontologist Jan van der Made, of the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid, to corroborate the ages yielded by Paleomagnetism, obtained by the CENIEH geochronologist Josep Parés, and ESR, found by Mathieu Duval, of Griffith University.

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The assemblages contained stone tool manufacturing lithic debris similar to that recovered from the earliest sites in East Africa. "It is not clear at this moment whether they hunted, but the evidence clearly shows that they were successfully competing with carnivores and enjoyed first access to animal carcasses".

The researchers say this same species is likely behind the materials found in both East and North Africa.

It is hard for scientists to say precisely when humans started making tools because the more primitive remains look like a natural object rather than a human artefact. According to researchers, these tools were made of flint and limestone, and were given the shapes of choppers, subspheroids, and polyhedral.

The tools closely resemble those called Oldowan, found until now mainly in East Africa.

Some of the bones featured cut marks, indicating an early form of butchery, the authors wrote.

"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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