It was only 2 days ago when we published here an article on an archaeological finding that has challenged half a century of palaeontological theory on Nutcracker Man’s main diet. Now another rare and historical finding has been made in Kenya’s Kokiselei area, at the shores of Lake Turkana of what may be the oldest stone tools ever found on earth.
A collection of picks, flakes and hand axes made from stone have been recovered from ancient sediments that indicate more sophisticated stone tool-making techniques, probably developed by Homo erectus, did exist more than 300,000 years earlier than originally thought.
The Acheulian stone tools believed to have been used for crushing, cutting and scraping, gave early humans a means to butcher animal carcasses, strip them of meat and crack open their bones to expose their marrow.
Until now, the earliest known stone tools of this kind were estimated to be 1.4 million years old and came from a haul in Konso, Ethiopia. The newly excavated tools are at least 1.76 million years old.
Older Oldowan stone tools dating back 2.6 million years ago included simple pebble-choppers for hacking and crushing. These were used by early men for about a million years.
But the discovery of the Lake Turkana hand axes has only just raised fresh questions. No evidence for advanced stone tools has been found at Dmanisi in Georgia, which was occupied by Homo georgicus 1.8 million years ago and later by Home Erectus, yet scientists have always insisted that Home Erectus migrated here from Africa. So why didn’t Homo erectus migrate with his new Acheulian tools to Asia if he truly originated from Africa as it has been theorised?
According to an article in the Guardian, researchers think Homo erectus originated in Asia instead of Africa. Another theory suggests that groups of Homo erectus migrating from Africa into Asia may have lost the skills to make Acheulian tools along the way.
To add to the mystery, new dating of the Dmanisi site now reveals that some of the material there may be older than 1.8 million years ago indicating that, perhaps, human emergence from Africa goes back even before this new date for bifacial tools.
This missing link which the ‘Out of Africa’ theory attempts to explain still continues to puzzle scientists all over the world so that even the recent findings in Lake Turkana cannot be said to mark the beginning of the Acheulian age of tools but it is one step to unravelling our mysterious ancestry.
When are you visiting Lake Turkana next? You may just be taking a trip back in time to walk the same grounds our ancestors trod on aeons of time ago!