Thanks to new technology it has finally been determined that hominids - our primate ancestors - were making and using tools in different parts of South Africa as long as two million years ago.
This is much earlier than originally thought.
Kathleen Kuman, a
professor of archaeology at the University of the Witwatersrand, and
researchers have dated a collection of tools from the Oldowan (a flaked
stone tool industry) found in the Sterkfontein Caves in the Cradle of
Humankind, after decades of lack of clarity.
"There was no
absolute dating method that worked well for the cradle sites at the
time, and for many decades we relied on the age of the fauna to give us
the age of tools," she says.
But a new machine designed at Purdue
University in the US was able to analyse the age of the quartz stone
from which the tools were made, it was announced earlier this month.
By measuring the build-up of aluminium in the quartz, the machine can determine for how long it had been buried.
tools dominate our Oldowan assemblage at Sterkfontein," says Kuman.
"They are very sharp and must have been used for cutting activities. It
is commonly believed that cutting of meat from carcasses was one of the
first uses of Oldowan tools."
There are also some quartzite tools
which have more "robust" edges and which were probably used to scrape
and cut through tougher materials.
There are three other Oldowan
deposits in South Africa - another one near Sterkfontein and two in the
Northern Cape - and they are from roughly the same era.
we have four Oldowan sites in South Africa, we know that the industry
was present here consistently and had a fairly wide distribution from
the Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng to the Northern Cape," says Kuman. Tanya Farber | timeslive.co.za