Tuesday, October 17, 2006

WORLD'S OLDEST STONE TOOLS

I had the pleasure of hearing Professor Michael Rogers of Southern Connecticut State University last week about the work he and his team are doing in Ethiopia.

His site is called Gona -- its between Hadar and Dikliki (the latter where the newest 3 year old find of the little australopithecus and the former where Lucy were found). They have found 600-700 lithics, that is worked, stone age tools. The site is well dated (by potassium argon method) to 2.6 mya -- volcanic ash above it is 2.53 mya.

The stone tools are made of volcanic material. They are well-struck flakes and there was a selection of material. In other words, whoever was making them, used the most fracturable stones to make these tools. Telltale signs of ripples and a bulb of percussion on the tools show so they are notjust naturally chipped. Bones of animals have been found with these lithics (but no human bones so far).

The very narrow site is now high on a mountain side but was once by the bank of a river. It was probably a wooded area at that time. Australopthicus Garhi dated to 2.5 mya was found a few miles away. [See: http://www.msu.edu/~heslipst/contents/ANP440/garhi.htm] The question is could this creature be the tool maker of Gona? Garhi is not a homo habilis as has a slight crest. And there are still questions about where Garhi fits in the scheme of early australopicines.

Of course, as is often the case, the team ran out of time but hopes to go back to Ethiopia next year. Stay tuned...

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