Ancient humans used stone tools 3.4mn years ago: Scientists

Last Updated: Thursday, August 12, 2010 - 17:06

London: In a discovery that may rewrite the
history of mankind, archaeologists have found that our ancient
ancestors were using stone tools to butcher animals one complete
million years earlier than previously thought.

It has been believed that the first use of tools is one
of the pivotal moments of humanity`s development some 2.5
million years ago.

But a team of archaeologists were stunned when they
found the marks of sharp stone blades on fossilised animals
bones believed to be over 3.4 million-year-old.

Dr Zeresenay Alemseged, from the California Academy of
Sciences who found the bones in Ethiopia, said they believe
the tools were used to carve slices of meat off the bones, and
smash them open to reach the nutritious marrow inside.

Dr Alemseged`s team made the latest discovery on a
fossilised bone unearthed in the Afar region of Ethiopia. The
bones were butchered by an squat ape-like ancestor called
Australopithecus afarensis.

The best known member of the species is "Lucy" -- who
was found in Ethiopia`s Awash Valley in 1974 and named after
the Beatles` song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Lucy was
around 3ft 6inches and walked upright.

Dr Alemseged said: "The discovery dramatically shifts
the known time frame of a game-changing behaviour for our
ancestors.

"Tool use fundamentally altered the way our early
ancestors interacted with nature, allowing them to eat new
types of food and exploit new territories.

"It also led to tool making -- a critical step in our
evolutionary path that eventually enabled such advanced
technologies as airplanes, MRI machines and iPhones."

Until now, the oldest evidence of tools came from Bouri
in Ethiopia where cut-marked bones were dated to around 2.5
million years ago. The oldest known stone tools -- dated
to the same period -- were found close by.

According to the scientist, the new findings "will
definitely force us to revise our text books on human
evolution, since it pushes the evidence for tool use and meat
eating in our family back by nearly a million years."

"These developments had a huge impact on the story of
humanity."

The discovery, reported in the journal Nature, is the
first evidence that Lucy and her relatives used tools.

Dr Shannon McPherron, of the Max Planck Institute in
Leipzig, Germany said: "Now, when we imagine Lucy walking
around the East African landscape looking for food, we can for
the first time imagine her with a stone tool in hand and
looking for meat.

"With stone tools in hand to quickly pull off the
flesh and break open bones; animal carcasses would have become
a more attractive source of food.

"This type of behaviour sent us down a path that would
lead to two of the defining features of our species- carnivory
and tool manufacture and use."

PTI



First Published: Thursday, August 12, 2010 - 17:06

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