Civilization is very, very ancient indeed. But did it start with humans, or someone much older?


Oldest stone tools raise questions about their creators
The 3.3-million-year-old implements predate the first members of the Homo genus.
by Ewen Callaway (Nature)



“The oldest stone tools on record may spell the end for the theory that complex toolmaking began with the genus Homo, to which humans belong. The 3.3-million-year-old artefacts, revealed at a conference in California last week, predate the first members of Homo, and suggest that more-ancient hominin ancestors had the intelligence and dexterity to craft sophisticated tools.


“This is a landmark discovery pertaining to one of the key evolutionary milestones,” says Zeresenay Alemseged, a palaeoanthropologist at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, who attended the talk at the annual meeting of the Paleoanthropology Society in San Francisco, on 14 April.


More than 80 years ago, anthropologist Louis Leakey found stone tools in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. Decades later, he and his wife Mary and their team found bones from a species that the Leakeys named Homo habilis — ‘the handy man’. This led to the prevailing view that human stone-tool use began with Homo, a group that includes modern humans and their big-brained and tall forebears. The oldest of these Oldowan tools date to 2.6 million years ago — around the time of the earliest Homo fossils. Climate upheavals that transformed dense forest into open savannah might have catalysed ancient humans into developing the new technology so that they could hunt or scavenge grass-eating animals, the theory goes…”


For the rest, click here to go to Nature.