The discovery is the first evidence that an even earlier group of proto-humans may have had the thinking abilities needed to figure out how to make sharp-edged tools. The stone tools mark “a new beginning to the known archaeological record,” say the authors of a new paper about the discovery, published today in the leading scientific journal Nature.
“The whole site’s surprising, it just rewrites the book on a lot of things that we thought were true,” said geologist Chris Lepre of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Rutgers University, a co-author of the paper who precisely dated the artifacts.
The tools “shed light on an unexpected and previously unknown period of hominin behavior and can tell us a lot about cognitive development in our ancestors that we can’t understand from fossils alone,” said lead author Sonia Harmand, of the Turkana Basin Institute at Stony Brook University and the Universite Paris Ouest Nanterre.
Hominins are a group of species that includes modern humans, Homo sapiens, and our closest evolutionary ancestors. Anthropologists long thought that our relatives in the genus Homo — the line leading directly to Homo sapiens — were the first to craft such stone tools. But researchers have been uncovering tantalizing clues that some other, earlier species of hominin, distant cousins, if you will, might have figured it out. More.
Of course, the unconfronted real story is that human paleo groupings are probably artificial. Class, discuss.
Revolutionary stone tools found in India “much earlier than thought,” 385 kya
Stone tools confirmed from 3.4 mya?
See also: Human evolution, the skinny
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