Researchers at Stony Brook University in New York found the world's oldest tools made by our ancestors in Kenya. The stone flakes are 3.3 million years old, suggesting that our human ancestors learned to craft tools 700,000 earlier than previously thought.
Prior to this recent discovery, the oldest tools dated 2.6 million years ago were found at an excavation site in Ethiopia. Scientists believe that these tools were crafted by the Oldowan. However, some were disputing that those were the oldest because they also found some animal bones, dated 3.2 million years ago, with distinct cut marks presumed to be made by human tools.
Due to lack of solid evidence, the Oldowan tools remained to be the record holder for the world's oldest tool. Now, that record is expected to be snatched by the tools found at the site of Lomekwi 3, just west of Lake Turkana in Kenya, about 1,000 kilometers from Olduvai Gorge.
The team lead by Sonia Harmand, an archaeologist from Stony Brook University, has excavated 150 stone flakes since 1998. Twenty of the stone tools were well-preserved which made it easier for the team to make an accurate dating, according to Science Mag.
"The artifacts were clearly knapped [created by intentional flaking] and not the result of accidental fracture of rocks," Harmand said at the annual meeting of the Paleoanthropology Society held in San Francisco, where the findings were presented.
The stone flakes showed similarities in the Oldowan tools except for the size; the Lomekwi tools were bigger than the Oldowan tools.
John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin, wasn't surprised that our ancestors were able to make stone flakes millions of years ago because even apes are capable of doing that. He wasn't part of the team that found the stone flakes.
"Humans have elaborated upon a technical ability that is latent among all the apes. This technical ability rests upon social learning skills that are necessary in chimpanzee societies, and early hominin societies inherited those skills from the common ancestors of humans and chimpanzees," Hawks wrote in a blog post.