A Butcher Site Found Dating Back 2.9 Million Years

Photo from Homa Peninsula Paleoanthropology Project

For centuries, humans believed we were the first species to make and craft stone tools. We thought it was what made humans different and more intelligent from every other species that came before us. 

However, within recent years, paleontologists have found evidence of stone tools that dated back to 3.3 million years ago. First discovered in 2011, on the shore of Lake Turkana in Kenya. These tools were to have existed a whole 700,000 years before the Homogenus emerged.  

Tools dating 2.9 million years ago can tell us something even more fascinating about how previous hominin prepared food. On the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya, there lay remains of a butchered hippopotamus alongside some of the oldest stone tools created.  

This find has been the earliest evidence of large animal butchery, but what is most interesting is who the butchers were.   

The Nutcracker Man

Photo from Homa Peninsula Paleoanthropology Project  
Photo from abc.net

Two large molar teeth belonging to the Paranthropus boisei aka the Nutcracker Man were also uncovered. They resemble similar facial features and did exist in the same time period. Suggesting that other hominins could have been smarter than we have credited them for.  

Olowan Tools
Photo from Homa Peninsula Paleoanthropology Project

As for the tools found at the site, scientists discovered that instead of just smashing two rocks together, these butchers used hammerstones to chip away at the rocks. These tools are Olowan tools and there are three different types: hammerstones, cores and flakes. Hammerstones are used for hitting and cores are used to strike a hammerstone, creating flakes which are used as a cutting or scraping edge.  

Gif from Giphy.com

The edges of these tools revealed that they were used to process plants, cut meat and crush bone marrow. It is not entirely known whether they hunted these animals, but they definitely cut up and butchered their carcasses. From what evidence we know, this was before any use of fire.  

So how did paleontologists figure out how old these fossils were?  

There are multiple methods paleontologists use in discovering the age of fossils. For instance, looking at the decay of radio isotope and reversal the earth’s magnetic poles over time. Because of this the artifacts are aged between 3 million and 2.6 million years old, estimated closer to 2.9 million years ago.  

What don’t we know?

Scientists are still discovering and finding new artifacts and fossils that tell us more and more of the worlds that existed before us.

Tweet us @VALLEYmag if you heard of any cool scientific discoveries, or something that blew your mind.


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