Magazine article Science News

Toolmaking Folk Went East Early: Hand Ax Innovators Reached India 1.5 Million Years Ago

Magazine article Science News

Toolmaking Folk Went East Early: Hand Ax Innovators Reached India 1.5 Million Years Ago

Article excerpt

Finds unearthed in southeastern India offer a cutting-edge revision of hominid migrations out of Africa more than i million years ago that spread pivotal toolmaking methods.

Makers of a specific style of teardrop-shaped stone hand ax, flat-edged cleavers and other implements that originated in Africa around 1.6 million years ago (SN: 1/31/09, p. 11) reached South Asia not long afterward, between 1.5 million and 1 million years ago, say archaeologist Shanti Pappu of the Sharma Center for Heritage Education in Tamil Nadu, India, and colleagues.

Rather than waiting until around 500,000 years ago to head into South Asia, as many researchers have thought, the African hand ax crowd wasted relatively little time before hightailing it to India, Pappu's team concludes in the March 25 Science.

Archaeologists categorize stone hand axes and related implements as Acheulian tools. Most researchers regard Homo erectus, a species that originated around 2 million years ago, as the original brains behind Acheulian innovations.

"Acheulian toolmakers were clearly present in South Asia more than 1 million years ago," Pappu says. Several previous excavations in different parts of India have also yielded Acheulian tools, but these finds lack firm age estimates.

No fossil remains of hominids--members of the human evolutionary family- turned up among the new tool finds.

H. erectus must have rapidly moved from East Africa to South Asia, proposes archaeologist Robin Dennell of the University of Sheffield in England. …

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