The World's Oldest Stone Tools Were Not Made By Humans

By Sarah Zhang on at

Archeologists working in Kenya have discovered the world’s oldest stone tools. At 3.3 million years, they’re 700,000 years older than what were previously the most ancient stone tools ever discovered. In fact, they’re even older than humans.

Since io9 wrote about the discovery presented at a conference in April, the archeological team has published a paper in Nature with a bevy of new photos. These humble rocks may not look particularly exciting to the untrained eye. But to archeologists, these are clearly tools: anvils, sharp-edged flakes, and hammers. All told, researchers found 149 stone artefacts at a site in northern Kenya.

The World's Oldest Stone Tools Were Not Made By Humans

The tools were likely made with rudimentary techniques, as Smithsonian explains:

Further analysis of the markings on the tools and attempts to replicate their production suggests two possible ways: The toolmaker might have set the stone on a flat rock and chipped away at it with a hammer rock. Or, the toolmaker could have held the stone with two hands and hit it against the flat base rock.

But it’s really their age that’s surprising. Carbon isotope dating puts them before the emergence of Homo genus 2.8 million years ago. The discovery means scientists will have to rethink the current narrative of brain evolution in early hominins. Who actually made the tools is unknown. One suspect is Kenyanthropus platyops, first discovered in, yes, Kenya in 1999.

At Gizmodo, we’re usually dedicated to bringing the latest and greatest in tech. But here are technology’s humble origins. Behold, the world’s oldest known tools.

[Nature via Smithsonian]

The World's Oldest Stone Tools Were Not Made By Humans

The World's Oldest Stone Tools Were Not Made By Humans

The World's Oldest Stone Tools Were Not Made By Humans

Image credits: MPK-WTAP;