OLDEST STONE TOOLS PRE-DATE EARLIEST HUMANS
(P1) The world’s oldest stone tools have been discovered, scientists report.
(P2) They were UNEARTHED from the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya, and date to 3.3 million years ago.
(P3) They are 700,000 years older than any tools found before, even pre-dating the earliest humans in the Homo genus.
(P4) The find suggests that more ancient species, such as Australopithecus afarensis or Kenyanthropus platyops, may have been more SOPHISTICATED than was thought.
(P5) “They are significantly earlier than anything that has been found previously,” said Dr Nick Taylor, from the National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS) in France and the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.
(P6) “It’s really quite astonishing to think what separates the previous oldest site and this site is 700,000 years of time. It’s MONUMENTAL.”
(P7) The first tools from the site, which is called Lomekwi 3, were discovered in 2011. They were spotted after researchers took a wrong turn as they walked through the hot, dry Kenyan landscape.
(P8) By the end of 2012, a total of 149 tools had been found, and another field trip in 2014 has unearthed more still.
(P9) They include sharp flakes of stone, SHEARED off from larger rocks, which were most likely used for cutting.
(P11) “The very largest one we have weighs 15kg, which is MASSIVE,” Dr Taylor told BBC News.
(P12) Dating of the volcanic ash and minerals around the tools suggests that they are 3.3 million years old.
(P13) Until this discovery, the oldest examples of this technology were the Oldowan tools from Tanzania, which date to about 2.6 million years ago.
(P14) The researchers say the 700,000-year time difference reveals how manufacturing methods and use changed over time, growing more advanced.
(P15) The scientists do not know who made the tools discovered in Kenya.
(P16) Until now, some thought that Homo habilis – known as “handy man” – was the earliest of our ancestors in the Homo genus to use tools.
(P17) But with Homo fossils dating back to only 2.4-2.3 million years ago, it now seems unlikely that this was the first toolmaker.
(P18) Other finds, such as animal bones found in Ethiopia with cut marks that date to 3.39 million years ago, also suggest tool use began before Homo habilis.
(P20) Dr Taylor said: “There are a number of possible candidates at present.
(P21) “There was a species called Kenyanthropus platyops, which has been found very close to where the Lomekwi 3 tools are being excavated. And that species was around at the time the tools were being made.
(P22) “More widely in the East African region there is another species, Australopithecus afarensis, which is famously known from the fossil Lucy, which is another candidate.”
(P23) Neither of these species was assumed to be particularly intelligent – they had both human and ape-like features, with relatively small brains.
(P24) However the tools suggest they may have been smarter than assumed.
(P25) Dr Ignacio de la Torre, from University College London’s Institute of Archaeology, described this as “a GAME-CHANGING” find.
(P26) “It’s the most important discovery in the last 50 years,” he told BBC News.
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- What is surprising about these newly discovered tools?
- The closest species to modern humans are all in the “Homo” genus. Were these tools made by members of “Homo”?
- What continent are most significant discoveries of this kind made in?
- Do you think that archaeology would be a fun occupation?
EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:
What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.