The Earliest Stone Tools…Not Oldowan?

*Updated with more Accurate Information*

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Lithic technology, or stone tool complexes, are extraordinarily important to the human story. It is part of what makes us so utterly unique, despite the fact that other creatures in the animal kingdom, such as Chimps and Bonobos use tools, our unique ability to craft advanced tools, has allowed us to progress as far as we have on this Earth. There are multiple stone tool complexes, which can be viewed almost as cultures. We know that certain species were able to produce certain tools, and as cultures and humans evolved, so did our stone tools. The Stone Age, across the areas of the earth is critical time in our development. 

We learn new things about how we evolved, both biologically and behaviorally, each day, and with new discoveries surrounding stone tools, we can begin to get a more clear picture of the way in which our ancestors used these tools, and created new and innovative ways to craft them. For a long period of time, and still depending on who you ask, the oldest stone tool complex is the Oldowan Stone Tool Complex. 

The earliest evidence of Oldowan Stone Tools, comes from Gona Ethiopia, dating to about 2.6 million years ago, first discovered by the Leakey’s during their many excavations in the area. “Explore some examples of Early Stone Age tools. The earliest stone toolmaking developed by at least 2.6 million years ago. The Early Stone Age began with the most basic stone implements made by early humans. These Oldowan toolkits include hammerstones, stone cores, and sharp stone flakes. By about 1.76 million years ago, early humans began to make Acheulean hand-axes and other large cutting tools (1).”

For a long period of time, the Oldowan tools were believed to be the oldest stone tool kit that early human ancestors created. But, this seems to be about to change. “In 2010, researchers found fossilized animal bones in Kenya dating to 3.4 million years ago with cut marks on them—possibly made from a stone tool, though still controversial. Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy’s species) was the only human ancestor or relative around at the same time and place. (*This has been proven to be inaccurate, as most paleoanthropologists agree there were multiple hominin taxons across Africa at the same time). Another hominin, Australopithecus africanus, appears to have had a grip strong enough for tool use. Studies show chimpanzees use rocks as hammers or anvils on their own in the wild, and, with a little guidance, bonobos are capable of creating stone tools (3).”

This discovery, pushes back what we know about the creation of stone tools about roughly 700,000 years, which is incredible, and changes a great deal about what we know about early Australopithecine cognition, and ability to form complex tools. While the marks on these bones are controversial, the fact that they are found near these stones that seem to be manipulated by a creatures hand, it is hard to argue that this is a new complex that was previously unknown. 

Knapped stone artifacts were found in place called Lomekwi 3 in Kenya in 2011 by Sonia Harmand and Co-Author Jason Lewis, from Stony Brook University. With these tools dating to 3.3 million years ago, it completely changes how we view when and where stone tools were created, and why. With the oldest stone tools dating nearly a million years earlier than we thought, it is incredible to imagine the possibilities that we have yet to discover. As always, there is always more to learn, so never stop!

While there is still so much more to learn, we must never stop trying to find the answers, who knows what next discovery is on the horizon. These new Lomekwian tools, which may be the oldest ever created, need a great deal of research to further understand just exactly what we have found. There is just always so much going on in the world of paleoanthropology, it is important to keep up with what is going on, and to understand all of the changes, new ideas, and discoveries that seemingly are made everyday. 

Until next time, there is always more to learn! 


Stone Tools

Early Stone Age Tools

The Oldest Stone Tools Yet Discovered Are Unearthed in Kenya

3.3-million-year-old stone tools from Lomekwi 3, West Turkana, Kenya

World’s oldest stone tools discovered in Kenya

Published by sethchagi

I am a Paleoanthropology Student, so far with two degrees, in Anthropology and Human Behavioral Science, pursuing my B.A and then my PhD I love to read (like a lot) and write, I love my family, and I adore anthropology! Remember, never stop exploring and never stop learning! There is always more to learn!

5 thoughts on “The Earliest Stone Tools…Not Oldowan?

  1. It’s true – lithic technology is extraordinarily important to the human story, better said storytelling. But it’s real importance for the human evolution may be as negligible as the development of space flight. The human throwing motion is much more challenging than the production of stone tools in multiple aspects. The throwing motion is highly precise, far more complex than the motion associated with stone tool making and much faster. And it’s associated with high demands of spatial perception.


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