Researchers from the Turkana Basin Institute at Stony Brook University have discovered stone tools that have been dated at 3.3 million years old and that date predates by 700K years what has previously been thought to be the time when ancient human ancestors started making and using stone tools. To date these stone tools are now the oldest ever found.
The stone tools were discovered in West Turkana, Kenya. They have clear signs of being intentionally fashioned for use in processing food and cutting meat from animal carcasses. The standing theory has been that such stone tools were first fashioned by the genus Homo which is the genus that modern humans (Homo sapiens) come from.
Some researchers believe that these tools weren’t made by our genus at all but by Australopithecus afarensis or some other proto-human species. Also, it was previously thought that use of stone tools was triggered by climate change on the Savannah grasslands of Africa but animal fossils and carbon isotopes in the soil have shown that the area had shrubby vegetation and was partly forested.
The question is what species made these tools. And that brings the question as to just what species of hominid actually made the leap into tool making. From the finds of this study I think it safe to say that it was NOT the Homo genus and that upsets what we THOUGHT we knew but obviously did not.
Some researchers believe that Homo habilis may be a “missing link” between the Australopithicenes and the Homo genus. H. habilis lived between 2.1 and 1.5 mya (million years ago). H. habilis is known to have fashioned and used crude stone tools known as “Oldowan” tools. Oldowan tools were also used by Homo erectus. H. erectus later developed a new tool fashion (Acheulean tools) and Oldowan tools became obsolete. Oldowan tools are crude stone tools and their development is considered a major milestone in human evolution. Their development is also considered the earliest evidence of cultural behavior.