A primitive tool kit containing 149 hammer stones, anvils, worked cobblestones, and other artifacts dating back 3.3 million years has recently been discovered in Lomekwi, Kenya according to Discovery News.
To put things in perspective, these are the oldest tools ever discovered and predate our homo species by over half a million years. They “show that early humans (essentially proto-humans) used and made stone tools 3.3 million years ago, which is about 700,000 years earlier than the previously earliest known date for early stone tools,” Erella Hovers, author of an accompanying “News & Views” article from the journal Nature, told Discovery News.
One disturbing theory to come out of this discovery is that proto-humans hunted and ate Neanderthals. Hovers, who is also a senior member of the Institute of Archaeology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told Discovery that stone tool making is not unique to our genus, as this earlier – unnamed – culture proves.
“The tools from Lomekwi show a mixture of pounding and flaking activities,” says Hovers.
Lead author of the study, Sonia Harmand, of the Turkana Basin Institute at Stony Brook University and her team think the tools were possibly used for crushing nuts or tubers, bashing open dead logs to eat the insects inside, and other purposes.
Chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas and other non-human primates all have the capacity to make basic tools. But those primates mostly use branches and other plant-based materials – only humans have been known to create stone-based tools.
The Lomekwi artifacts “clearly predates the earlier known occurrence of Homo, which is currently known (from) 2.8 million years ago in the Afar region of Ethiopia,” Hovers told Discovery.
It’s possible that Australopithecus afarensis (which has both human and ape characteristics) created the tools. Another option is Kenyathropus platyops, which also has both human and ape characteristics and lived in Kenya.
The third and most astounding hypothesis is that an unknown human species created them. It’s certain that whomever made the tools had good hand-eye coordination in order to make them with their hands and arms.
The finding is momentous, because it proposes modifications in the brain and spine needed for such a task could have taken place well before 3.3 million years ago – making the human species older than previously thought. Interestingly, animal bones from Ethiopia also bear similar stone-inflicted marks date back to at least 3.39 million years ago, signifying that stone tools were constructed and implemented even before the Lomekwi toolkit.
“Further fieldwork in sediment layers dating 3.3-2.6 million years ago is needed to verify that this site in Kenya reflects the emergence of a new hominin (early proto-human) behavior and is not an isolated incidence,” Hovers stated. “Researchers are now equipped with a search template of what such very early tools might look like, and will be better able to recognize them.”
What do you think? Is this a fluke or has a new species of human been found?