(ORDO NEWS) — Archaeologists in Kenya have unearthed some of the oldest stone tools ever found, but who used them remains a mystery.
The image below, provided by the Homa Peninsula Paleoanthropology Project, shows the skeleton of a fossil hippopotamus and related Oldowan artifacts at the Nyayanga excavations in southwestern Kenya in July 2016.
Previously, scientists assumed that our direct ancestors were the only tool makers. But two large fossil teeth found along with tools at a Kenyan site belong to an extinct human relative known as Paranthropus.
This proves once again that our direct Homo relatives may not have been the only tech-savvy creatures in the Stone Age, said study author Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Institution.
“These teeth open up an amazing mystery – the real question is, who were these earliest tool makers?” Potts said.
The researchers report that the tools date back to about 2.9 million years ago, when early humans used them to butcher hippos.
Older stone tools have been found in Kenya dating back to about 3.3 million years ago, long before our own Homo ancestors.
These tools were a bit simpler and have only been found in one location so far, said archaeologist Shannon McFerron of the German Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
The latest discovery coincides with a much larger tradition known as the Oldowan instrumentation.
Potts said that the same tools appear throughout Africa and beyond during over a million years of prehistoric history, showing that they did take root among early humans.
They held a stone in one hand and hit it with the other stone, breaking off thin, razor-sharp scales, explained anthropologist Kathy Schick of the Stone Age Institute in Indiana.
According to lead author Thomas Plummer, an anthropologist at Queens College at the City University of New York, ancient people were able to cut and crush various materials using stones and debris.
And tools found in Kenya, probably the most ancient Oldowan tools, provided an advantage in nutrition.
The place known as Nyayanga is a lush, hilly landscape on the shores of Lake Victoria. Since excavations began there in 2015, researchers have unearthed many artifacts and animal bones, as well as two Paranthropus teeth.
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