A team of scientists from the University of Kent and University College London have discovered strong evidence that Australopithecus africanus used stone tools 2-3 mya. The evidence also suggests that several Pleistocene hominids thought to have not made or used stone tools may in fact have done so.
The team analyzed the internal spongy structure of bone known as “trabeculae” which is believed to reflect actual behavior of individuals during their lifetime. The trabeulae hand bones of humans and chimps were first examined by the team and they found clear differences between humans and chimps. Humans have the ability for forceful precision between the thumb and fingers while chimps do not. This pattern is present in non-arboreal and stone making fossil humans species like the Neanderthals, and we now know Au. africanus also had the same bone and structure indicating that it too made and used stone tools. Thus, it appears that Au. africanus was more human than originally thought.
I must point out here that chimps, in fact, DO make and use tools. They will sharpen sticks to use to get insects or to attack rival chimps with. They will also use rocks to crack open nuts. However, they certainly do not make or use tools like we see in the Oldowan Stone Tool fashion or more sophisticated stone tools. Apparently, Au. africanus was making and using Oldowan Stone Tools and this is fascinating because it means tool use and manufacturing were going on long before the appearance of our own Homo genus. Likely that our genus, Homo, acquired tool making and tool use knowledge from Au. africanus and that it was not a new behavior at all emerging with the Homo genus. Once again we find that we are not as unique as once thought.
In many ways our ancient human ancestors have been painted in such a way they they were nothing more, really, than ground-walking apes or ape-men. Discoveries like this prove that hypothesis WRONG! If Au. africanus did in fact make and use stone tools similar to the Oldowan tools then that sheds a new light on there species indicating that they were NOT the barbaric ape-men they once were thought to be because tool making is a characteristic of CULTURE. If Au. africanus made and used such stone tools then this discovery also STRONGLY supports the notion that Au. africanus had CULTURE. That is a hallmark of being HUMAN in my opinion.
Isn’t it ironic? The more we discover, the more we are forced to realize what we thought was NOT and what we thought was not, WAS. It’s discoveries like this that shed a whole new light on human evolution and, frankly, that’s a breath of fresh air badly needed.