A new discovery on the banks of Lake Turkana in Kenya is challenging one of the very things that makes us human. The oldest stone tools in the world were just discovered there, and we may not have even made them.
The archaeological record has thus far given us the following numbers. Hominins reached this milestone 2.3 million years ago. The genus Homo appeared a bit before that. Homo Sapiens showed up 200,000 years later, CNBC explained.
But, these artifacts — which look like “early hammers and cutting instruments,” Smithsonian added — date back 3.3 million years, meaning they’re the oldest. That’s a 700,000-year adjustment.
We’ve made some other assumptions about evolution, namely humankind’s other traits that developed alongside the making of tools. According to the Smithsonian, this happened — gradually, of course — when Africa’s climate changed, the forest turned to savannah, Hominins evolved into various lines — including the one that led to us. Now in a new environment, these Homos came across food and needed new ways to process them.
But maybe this achievement came long before that process even began, Jason Lewis, a paleoanthropologist and co-author of the study explained. And they may have served a different purpose than other artifacts archaeologist have previously discovered, which were given sharp edges to cut meat. These could’ve been used to break nuts or tubers or crush logs to get at insects, Live Science added.
As for the maker, scientists are stumped. One option is a human-like species and member of the Australopithecus family, Kenyanthropus platyops, whose skull was found in 1999 near the site where this latest discovery was unearthed — the skull is as old as the oldest tools discovered.
It’s possible that the oldest tool maker is a distant Hominid cousin, or a species completely outside our family altogether. But even more fascinating is the notion that an unknown member of the human family possibly made them, Lewis added.
“That’s a different but equally interesting story, in which our genus evolved half a million years before, and in response to completely different natural selective pressures, than we currently think.”
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