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1.9-million- and 2.4-million-year-old artifacts and stone tool–cutmarked bones from Ain Boucherit, Algeria

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Science  14 Dec 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6420, pp. 1297-1301
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau0008

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Early humans in northern Africa

Evidence for the earliest stone tools produced by human ancestors (from ∼2.6 million years ago) has hitherto come from East Africa. Sahnouni et al. report the discovery of Oldowan stone artifacts and associated cutmarks on fossil bones excavated in Algeria, with the earliest dated to 2.4 million years ago. Thus, hominins inhabited the Mediterranean fringe in North Africa earlier than commonly believed. Furthermore, either stone tool manufacture and use dispersed early from East Africa or stone tool manufacture and use originated in both North and East Africa.

Science, this issue p. 1297

Abstract

East Africa has provided the earliest known evidence for Oldowan stone artifacts and hominin-induced stone tool cutmarks dated to ~2.6 million years (Ma) ago. The ~1.8-million-year-old stone artifacts from Ain Hanech (Algeria) were considered to represent the oldest archaeological materials in North Africa. Here we report older stone artifacts and cutmarked bones excavated from two nearby deposits at Ain Boucherit estimated to ~1.9 Ma ago, and the older to ~2.4 Ma ago. Hence, the Ain Boucherit evidence shows that ancestral hominins inhabited the Mediterranean fringe in northern Africa much earlier than previously thought. The evidence strongly argues for early dispersal of stone tool manufacture and use from East Africa or a possible multiple-origin scenario of stone technology in both East and North Africa.

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