Ancient tools found in North Africa could 'rewrite human origin story'

Researchers recovered human-made stone artifacts in Algeria

To date the tools, Mohamed Sahnouni, lead author and an archaeologist at Spain's National Research Center for Human Evolution, and his team used three methods.

The life of early hominins in North Africa is still largely a mystery, and much of what is known of these ancestral groups is derived from the tools themselves.

An global team of archaeologist found "stone tools and cut animal bones" that indicate the earliest pre-humans could have originated there.

"East Africa is widely considered to be the birthplace of stone tool use by our ancient hominid ancestors - the earliest examples of which date as far back as about 2.6 million years ago", said the report in Science. Such implements appear to have spread from East Africa earlier than scientists first thought.

The results of the analyses reveal the tools in the collection are between 1.9 and 2.4 million years old.

The Algerian artifacts are similar to the Oldowan stone technology found in East Africa, but show subtle variations.

Fossils of animals such as pigs, horses and elephants, from very ancient sites, have been used by the paleontologist Jan van der Made, of the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid, to corroborate the ages yielded by Paleomagnetism, obtained by the CENIEH geochronologist Josep Parés, and ESR, found by Mathieu Duval, of Griffith University. "Actually, the whole of Africa was the cradle of humankind".

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"The effective use of sharp-edged tools at Ain Boucherit suggests that our ancestors were not mere scavengers", says Isabel Cáceres, of Spanish archaeological organization IPHES, who was involved with the project. "It is not clear at this moment whether they hunted, but the evidence clearly shows that they were successfully competing with carnivores and enjoyed first access to animal carcasses".

The team discovered archaeological materials in two levels of a geological formation at a site called Ain Boucherit dating to 2.4 million and 1.9 million years ago.

The latest findings could tell a similar story, if earlier remains in North Africa are not found. Made of limestone and flint, the sharp-edged flakes and round cores-some the size of tennis balls-resemble those found in east Africa.

Either way, the study suggests that by 2 million years ago or so, making stone tools and butchering meat with them was routine for human ancestors in distant corners of the African continent. About two dozen animal bones have cut marks that show they were skinned, defleshed, or pounded for marrow.

Hominin remains have still not been found in North Africa which are contemporary with the earliest stone artifacts.

Alternatively, it could mean that a "rapid expansion of stone tool manufacture" took place in the early days of humankind's existence.

'Future research will focus on searching hominin fossils in the nearby Miocene and Plio-Pleistocene deposits searching for the tool-makers and even older stone tools, ' Dr. M. Sahnouni says.

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