Discovery sheds light on the mystery of the first stone tools

The Discovery of Stone Tools During the Early History of Hominin Feeding on Large Animals: Evidence of a Hyippopotamus-like Dente?

An archaeological excavation on the shore of Lake Victoria in Kenya has unearthed hundreds of stone tools and fossils dating to as early as three million years ago. Some of the first direct evidence that early hominins used Stone Tools to feed on large animals was found with the butchered remains of ancient hippopotamus-like creatures. A study describing them was published on 9 February in Science1.

Stone tools and animal bones are the only remains that were found at the site. The researchers stumbled on a tooth that belonged to an ancient relative of humans during a hailstorm in the last day of the season. Its presence near the hippo carcasses — along with another Paranthropus tooth also found at the site — raises the possibility that it might have been members of Paranthropus, rather than of the modern-human genus Homo, that used some of the stone tools at the site to butcher the animals.

Humans are dependent on technology for survival and some nonhuman primate products assist in this. The evolutionary roots of reliance on technology for survival is a mystery according to the author of the research.

Dating methods placed the remains between 2.6 million and 3 million years old, making the associated artefacts a contender for the oldest cache of Oldowan tools ever found. The start of large animal butchering by hominins was pushed back by at least 600,000 years. Some of the tools looked like they might have been used to pound plant material.

Study coauthor Rick Potts, a paleoanthropologist and Peter Buck Chair of Human Origins at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, described the tool kit as “the first simple food-processor.”

“The sharp-edged flakes could cut as effectively than a lion’s set of teeth, and the hammerstones could crush as effectively as an elephant’s molars — and thus all of possible foods of the savanna woodlands/grasslands were opened up to processing with this new set of teeth outside of the body,” he said via email.

The Oldowan tool kit, a fossil of Australopithecus afarensis, and the origins of the Homo genus

“The difference is not exactly like how the iPhone changed how we use phones. I believe it is similar to how writing changed communication.

The presence of the Paranthropus molars, however, has suggested that members of the Homo genus weren’t the only primates to harness this technological advancement.

Paranthropus had a large face, giant jaw and huge teeth that were much bigger than those that belonged to the earliest species of human such as Homo habilis, which had been most closely associated with the emergence of the Oldowan tool kit.

When our team decided the age of the evidence, it became clear to me that someone was behind it. The originator of the Oldowan may be an unknown for a long time, but there are several possibilities, and only bones from the hand that held the stone tool are known.

The hominins walked on two feet as far west as Chad in 2.5 million years ago. These early hominins include Australopithecus afarensis, to which the famous Lucy fossil belongs, as well as Paranthropus and Homo habilis.

“This discovery means precision flaking techniques existed a lot earlier than we thought. It has implications for hominin cognitive and social learning. These are techniques you have to acquire somehow from other knapping hominins around you,” McNabb said.

The foodstuffs prepared with the tools would have been eaten raw. Perhaps meat would be pounded into something akin to a hippo tartare to make it easier to chew. It was less than a million years ago when using fire to cook was discovered in the archaeological record.

The human ancestors were capable of processing and eating large animals, as shown by the remains of butchered Hippos. It is unlikely that the Hippos were actively hunted.

There isn’t any evidence to suggest that a technology could have brought down a large animal in Oldowan. The toolmakers may have processed the carcasses that they found. The advantage of such an activity would have been access to large packages of protein and fat — a real survival advantage,” Potts said via email.

The Harmand Legacy Site: A Dream Site for Oldowan Stone Toolboxes and Ancient Animal Remnants – Part I: The Museum

The site now joins a handful of others that have yielded tools dating back to the earliest adoption of stone technology. “This is a dream site,” says Sonia Harmand, an archaeologist at Stony Brook University in New York. It is almost too good to be true.

The crew began working at the new site in 2015. They found a lot of artifacts, including 42 Oldowan stone tools scattered around the bones of an ancestral Hippo. There were signs that the bones of the Hippo were cut and removed by stone implements, as well as other animal remains at the site.

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