Oldest stone-age tools discovered in western Kenya
New research by scientists from the National Museums of Kenya, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and Queens college will go down in history.
Its findings reopen the case of who made the first stone-age innovations known as the Oldowan toolkit.
Thei research has shown tools used by early humans in western Kenya 2.9 million years ago.
It came as a surprise to the team of researchers.
"The main objective of the project is to try and understand the evolution history happening in the Homa Peninsula basin, Rahab Kinyanjui, a paleo-botanist at the National Museums of Kenya said.
"And Nyanyanga happened to be one of the sites that we worked in and while working there we got the Oldowan tools. We are sort of closing to 2.6 (million years) as the most optimum date that we can talk about making it the oldest Oldowan tool in the East African region."
The Oldowan toolkit includes three types of stone tools: flakes, hammer-stones and cores.
The wear patterns reveal that the stones from the ancient butchery site of Homa Peninsula Basin (western Kenya) were used to process a wide range of materials and foods that included meat, bone marrow and plants.
"When you pick one like this one, the collection manager at National Museums of Kenya said pointing at a stone, you can see all these fractures which means they have been created by humans as they were extracting some smaller tools like this one which was used to slaughter animals like the hippopotamus."
Human evolutionary ancestor(s)
According to the scientists, the teeth are the oldest Paranthropus fossils ever found and their presence at a site close to the stone tools raises a debate about which human evolutionary ancestor made the tools.
"This tool is associated with Paranthropus species unlike how maybe you would expect it because most of the Oldowan tools have been associated with homo species but this one in particular we do not have homo species that have been uncovered yet unless maybe in future as work progresses it might be found. But at the moment, we can only talk about what has been found and that is another thing that makes it special," says Kinyanjui.
Scientists had for a long time assumed that only the genus Homo (a genus to which humans belong) was capable of making tools out of stone.
Beyond offering a window into the dawn of stone technology, the findings bring forth questions about the hominid society of that time and the relationship between culture adaptation and environment.
"When you are thinking about the course of human evolution and the relationship between culture and adaptation and culture and environment and culture and hominid adaptability, the Oldowan seems to be the first of sort of indications of culture being really significant to potentially the survival of more species because and you know in terms of something that is being transmitted not only within the group but between groups and spreading in populations around the world, this is the first technology that shows that like it spreads across Africa which is a huge continent."
The Homa Peninsula 2.9 million-year-old tools are now the oldest examples of Oldowan stone tools.
The previously known oldest examples of Oldowan stone tools were found in Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia.
They are 2.6 million years old.