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The oldest handmade stone tools discovered yet predate any known humans and may have been wielded by an as-yet-unknown species, researchers say.
The 3.3-million-year-old stone artifacts are the first direct evidence that early human ancestors may have possessed the mental abilities needed to figure out how to make razor-sharp stone tools.
However, these findings suggest that Lomekwian stone tools may have been used for breaking open nuts or tubers, bashing open dead logs to get at insects inside, or maybe something not yet thought of.
“The Lomekwi 3 evidence suggests that important evolutionary changes that would later be really important for to survive on the savannah were actually evolving beforehand, in a still-wooded environment,” Lewis said.
“We were not surprised to find stone tools older than 2.6 million years, because paleoanthropologists have been saying for the last decade that they should be out there somewhere,” Harmand said.
“But we were surprised that the tools we found are so much older than the Oldowan, at 3.3 million years old.” It remains unknown what species made these stone tools.
“In any of these cases the story is equally new and interesting.
We are comfortable not having all of the answers now.” The stone tools were discovered in the desert badlands of northwestern Kenya, where the arid, rocky terrain resembles a New Mexican landscape.
The researchers tried using stones to knock off and shape so-called flakes or blades — a process known as knapping — to better understand how these Lomekwian stone artifacts might have been made.The discovery also rewrites the book on the kind of environmental and evolutionary pressures that drove the emergence of toolmaking.Chimpanzees and monkeys are known to use stones as tools, picking up rocks to hammer open nuts and solve other problems.They could have been created by an as-yet-unknown extinct human species, or by.“Sometimes the best discoveries are the ones that raise more questions than provide answers,” study co-author Jason Lewis, a paleoanthropologist at Stony Brook University and Rutgers University in New Jersey, told Live Science.