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Story of humans

Stone tools

Stone tools found at Jebel IrhoudStone tools found at Jebel IrhoudStone tools made by humans or human ancestors date back more than 3 million years. Many scientists studying human origins, known as palaeoanthropologists, guess that stone tools formed only part of the early human toolkit. Materials such as wood or bamboo are rarely preserved and it is quite possible that tools made of these materials were in use even earlier. The invention of stone tools marks the beginning of the what is known as the Palaeolithic Period, or old Stone Age. The period is divided into three, according to developments in tool technology. The Lower Palaeolithic (c. 3.3 million to 300,000 years ago), is the earliest period of stone tool production, from pebble tools to hand axes. The next stage, the Middle Palaeolithic (c. 300,000 to 40,000 years ago), covers the stone tools made both by the Neanderthals and the first modern humans. The Upper Palaeolithic (40,000 to 12,000 years ago) was a time when more sophisticated methods were used to create a wide range of stone tools.

Lomekwian toolLomekwian tool

First stone tools

Stone tools found at Lomekwi, near the west bank of Lake Turkana in Kenya, between 2011 and 2014 are dated to 3.3 million years old. They are more than half a million years older than the first remains of the genus Homo. Known as “Lomekwian” tools, some scientists think they may have been made by Kenyanthropus platyops, a human ancestor that lived in the same region at the same time. The tools could also have been the work of Australopithecus afarensis, another local human-like species, of whose best known fossils are those of a find called Lucy. The stones were clearly crafted and not the result of an accidental fracture of rocks: studies show that they had been deliberately rotated as flakes were struck off to make the tool.

Hand axes were the first prehistoric tools to be recognized as such. The first drawing of one was published in 1800. Before that time, people called them thunderstones, believing they had fallen from the sky during storms.

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