Oldest Use of Stone Tools?

Did Lucy’s species butcher animals 3.4 million years ago?

Early humans made stone tools by about 2.6 million years ago. Researchers have now found fossil animal bones with possible butchery marks about 3.4 million years old at Dikika, Ethiopia. This discovery could show that early humans used naturally sharp rocks on the bones of antelope-sized animals. The animal bones occur at the same time and place of Lucy’s species – Australopithecus afarensis

The suspected tools, though, haven’t yet been found. So, were the bones really damaged by early humans? Or were they marked by animal hooves pressing the bones into the sandy ground surface? Two other fossil fragments found with the others, and originally thought to show butchery marks, were actually damaged by animal trampling.

If confirmed, the new claim will push back the age of early humans using tools – not necessarily making them – by about 800,000 years. It will also show the oldest evidence of early humans eating the meat and marrow of large animals.

These findings were announced August 12, 2010, in the journal Nature.

Core and flakes from Lokalalei, Kenya

McPherron, S.P., Alemseged, Z., Marean, C.W., Wynn, J.G., Reed, D., Geraads, D., Bobe, R., Be´arat, H.A. (2010) Evidence for stone-tool-assisted consumption of animal tissues before 3.39 million years ago at Dikika, Ethiopia. Nature 466: 857-860.