Paleontology

Early Toolmakers

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Science  07 Jan 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5706, pp. 18
DOI: 10.1126/science.307.5706.18a

The Hadar Formation, exposed by the Awash River in Ethiopia, has yielded hominid fossils spanning several million years, including Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis), dated to more than 3 million years ago (Ma). The uppermost part of the Hadar (now designated as the Busidima Formation) also hosts what seem to be the oldest known tools, chiseled river cobbles, and associated debris flakes, dated to about 2.6 Ma. Quade et al. document how the environment of the Hadar Formation evolved along with these early hominids. Their analysis shows that the river flowed through forest, mixed with some grassland, which expanded as the climate dried. Early stone tools were collected from cobble bars in the main river and processed nearby, but up on the banks. Later, cobbles were transported farther away. Interestingly, the first occurrence of tools is found above the abrupt appearance of cobbles younger than 3 Ma in the section. These tools may thus represent the appearance of a local resource rather than marking the true technological innovation, which would have happened earlier. — BH

Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 116, 1529 (2004).

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