This release is available in German.
An international team of researchers, including Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco (USA) and Dr. Shannon McPherron of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany), has discovered evidence that human ancestors were using stone tools and consuming the meat and marrow of large mammals 1 million years earlier than previously documented. While working in the Afar region of Ethiopia, the Dikika Research Project (DRP) found bones bearing unambiguous evidence of stone tool use - cut marks made while carving meat off the bone and percussion marks created while breaking the bones open to extract marrow. The bones date to roughly 3.4 million years ago and provide the first evidence that Lucy's species, Australopithecus afarensis, used stone tools and consumed meat. The research is reported in the August 12th issue of the journal Nature.
"This discovery dramatically shifts the known timeframe of a game-changing behaviour for our ancestors," says paleoanthropologist Alemseged. "Tool use fundamentally altered the way our earliest ancestors interacted with nature, allowing them to eat new types of food and exploit new territories. It also led to tool making - the precursor to such advanced technologies as aeroplanes, MRI machines, and iPhones."
Until now, the oldest known evidence of butchering animals with stone tools came from Bouri, Ethiopia, where several cut-marked bones date to about 2.5 million years ago. The oldest known stone tools, dated to between 2.6 and 2.5 million years ago, were found at nearby Gona, Ethiopia. Although no hominin fossils were found in direct association with the Gona tools or the Bouri cut-marked bones, at nearby Hadar an upper jaw from an early Homo species was found in deposits dated to about 2.4 milli
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