Ancient Humans Used Hand Axes Earlier Than Thought, Says Research

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Ancient humans fashioned hand axes, cleavers and picks much earlier than believed, but didn't take the stone tools along when they left Africa, new research suggests.A team from the United States and France made the findings after traveling to an archaeological site along the northwest shoreline of Kenya's Lake Turkana. Two-faced blades and other large cutting tools had been previously excavated there along with primitive stone flakes.Using a sophisticated technique to date the dirt, researchers calculated the age of the more advanced tools to be 1.76 million years old. That's older than similar stone-age artifacts in Ethiopia and Tanzania estimated to be between 1.4 and 1.6 million years old.This suggests that prehistoric humans were involved in refined tool-making that required a higher level of thinking much earlier than thought. Unlike the simplest stone tools made from bashing rocks together, the early humans who shaped these more distinct objects planned the design and then created them.This "required a good deal of forethought as well as dexterity to manufacture," said paleoanthropologist Eric Delson at Lehman College in New York, who was not involved in the research.Results of the study, led by Christopher Lepre of Rutgers University and Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.The stone tools, known collectively as Acheulian tools, are believed to be the handiwork of the human ancestor Homo erectus. …