Nearly 4 decades after a two-million-year-old skull known as 1470 was found in 1972, Turkana is not done yet revealing the secrets of ancient life lived here millions of years ago. Now researchers have accidentally stumbled upon stone-age tools believed to be more than 3 million years old in the Lomekwi area, northwest of Lake Turkana.
The team was looking for the site where a controversial human relative called Kenyanthropus platyops had been discovered in 1998 when they took a wrong turn and ended up at Lomekwi instead – not very far from the site of Kenyanthropus’s discovery.
This finding has been described as a game changer because until now, the use of tools by early man was confined to the Homo genus. This discovery is now boldly saying that older ancestors of man who lived way before Homo habilis may also have had the ability to fashion and use tools in their lives.
Scientists are now suggesting australopithecines like the famed ‘Lucy’, initially thought to be too primitive to have been able to use any kind of tools, may actually have been able to do so after all!
The artefacts belonged to a tool technology known as the Oldowan, after Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania where famous palaeoanthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey discovered them more than 80 years ago. What the sharp blades were used for, is not yet known. Nor is the identity of the tool makers. This much is known though, the tool owners may have been ape-like with small brains.
The discovery of the tools puts to rest controversy surrounding claims made by a group of scientists in 2010 working at the site of Dikika in Ethiopia that cut marks found here on animal bones dating 3.4 million years ago may have been made by tool-using human ancestors.
The scientists have proposed to call the new tools the Lomekwian technology because they are too distinct from the Oldowan technology. How long they will occupy the coveted position of oldest stone tools on earth is only a matter of time.
A while ago, we published yet another discovery of the world’s oldest hand axes in Lake Turkana that is re-writing archaeology – so Turkana has not finished surprising us.