Study: Tool Use Came Earlier Than Thought

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NEW YORK, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Our early ancestors, Homo erectus, were shaping stone axes in Africa 1.8 million years ago, 300,000 years earlier than previously thought, U.S. researchers say.

Homo erectus appeared about 2 million years ago and lived until hitting a possible evolutionary dead-end about 70,000 years ago.

Some researchers think Homo erectus evolved in East Africa, but the discovery in the 1990s of Homo erectus fossils in the country of Georgia has led others to suggest an Asian origin.

A study of the ancient stone axes found in Africa doesn’t solve the debate, researchers say, and in fact raises new questions.

At about 1.8 million years ago, Homo erectus in Georgia was still using simple chopping tools while in Kenya, the study found, the population had developed hand axes, picks and other innovative tools anthropologists call “Acheulian.”

“The Acheulian tools represent a great technological leap,” study co-author Dennis Kent, a geologist with joint appointments at Columbia University and Rutgers University, said in a Columbia release Wednesday. “Why didn’t Homo erectus take these tools with them to Asia?”

Some scientists theorize Homo erectus may have migrated to Georgia from Africa but “lost” the Acheulian technology on the way.

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