Magazine article Science News

Early Tool Making: An Asian Connection

Magazine article Science News

Early Tool Making: An Asian Connection

Article excerpt

Early tool making: An Asian connection

The oldest known stone tools produced by hominids, members of the evolutionary family that includes modern humans, date back nearly 2 million years and come from eastern and southern Africa. British investigators now report finding similar stone artifacts of a comparable age in northern Pakistan.

The discovery, says archaeologist Robin W. Dennell of the University of Sheffield, England, shows "early tool use has an Asian as well as African dimension." No hominid bones have been found at the Pakistan site, but Dennell says the geographic location of the flaked stones raises new implications about early human ancestors.

"The most obvious tool-maker at the site would have been Homo habilis [the first direct ancestor of modern humans', extending its range as far east as Pakistan," he explains. It is also possible the artifacts belonged to H. erectus, a species found in Asia as well as Africa and thought to have evolved from H. habilis. If H. erectus made the stone implements, says Dennell, it lived in Asia at the same time H. habilis lived in Africa. Or, the tools may be remnants of Paranthropus, a now-extinct line of hominids whose tool-making capabilities have recently been upgraded (SN: 5/28/88, p.344).

Regardless of which hominids made the stone tools, contends Dennell, "we're victims of modern geography in seeing Africa as one unit and Asia as another. Human origins lie in the savanna grassland environments of northern India and Pakistan as well as eastern and southern Africa. …

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